A study from Baylor University says that “People living in countries with governments that spend more on social services report being more contented.”

“The effect of state intervention into the economy equals or exceeds marriage or employment status — two traditional predictors of happiness — when it comes to satisfaction,” said Patrick Flavin, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Four measures of government policies were used by Flavin and co-researchers at the University of Notre Dame and Texas A&M University:

• The overall size of government consumption as a percentage of national gross domestic product.

• Social welfare expenditures as a percentage of the gross domestic product.

• Welfare state generosity measured in terms of the ease of access to welfare benefits, the expansiveness of coverage to citizens of different statuses and life circumstances, and the degree to which social benefits replace incomes lost due to unemployment, retirement, or family circumstances.

• Labor market regulations governing such circumstances as job dismissals, temporary employment, and mass layoffs.

The U.S. is located right in the middle of “satisfaction,” with countries like Belgium, France, and Germany reporting less contentment — countries with greater social spending (and arguably more of the other noted measures) than the U.S.

Which is a good thing, since Dr. Flavin is somewhat at odds with the very headline of the Baylor article: “Are we saying we need a bigger government to be happier? No. Instead, our goal is to objectively examine the data and let people draw their own conclusions.”

Read the full article here.

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With pot legalized in two states, health researchers are again warning that young people are especially at risk of “performing suboptimally” if they pull out the bong regularly.

In a much less convincing case for puffing piety, USA Today College reports that hookahs - those water pipes you use to smoke flavored tobacco – are the next great health scare for students:

A study published in an American Association for Cancer Research Journal found that young adults smoking hookah have an increased exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

“Water pipe smoking is generally perceived to be a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, even for children and youths,” says Gideon St.Helen, a University of California, San Francisco postdoctoral fellow for Tobacco Control Research and Education. “Our study shows that water pipe use, particularly chronic use, is not risk-free,” he says in a press release.

And yet the chances that any given student is going through two packs a day of “starbuzz” seem exceedingly remote:

“I go to hookah bars to smoke alone and do homework,” says Adriana Arteaga, senior at George Washington University. …

Mohammad Tarabichi, employee at Cloud Lounge — a hookah bar in Arlington, Va. — says college students from both local universities and overseas come in every day to smoke hookah.

“They come after classes. We have free WiFi, so they come and do their homework, socialize,” Tarabichi says. …

“There have been months where I would smoke at least once a week, but there have also been months where I would smoke maybe twice a month,” Arteaga says.

Between chronic pot use, binge drinking, prescription-pill abuse and the Four Loko panic of a few years ago, hookahs would seem to be pretty low on the list of public-health worries and associated ills. But in the BDSM capital of America, researchers want to freak out college kids who enjoy the occasional puffery that pairs well with programming.

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How would you like to see your crosstown rival’s beautiful campus building staring you in the face everyday?

That’s apparently what students at Washington State University Pullman will have to endure this year, as a student planner distributed on the campus this month has a picture of an ornate, distinguished looking building from the University of Washington on it.

The Spokesman-Review reports that …

the cover features a picture of a cougar, the iconic Bryan clock tower and a building that was a little harder to identify. Down at the very bottom of the cover, with beautiful brick and elegant cherry trees is Savery Hall, a building located at the heart of the campus of WSU’s sworn rival – the University of Washington.

A distraught manager Leslie (no last name provided) at WSU’s bookstore The Bookie says they are aware of the problem and are working with the unidentified vendor to come to a solution.

Hey, accidents happen. Apparently the planner is made by an outside commercial vendor. Still, ouch!

h/t: Huffington Post

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Students in Minnesota, beware what you say in social media, or at least mark your accounts private: The U.S. District Court in Minneapolis threw out a lawsuit earlier this week by a student who was expelled from a nursing program for his personal Facebook posts.

The Student Press Law Center reports that Craig Keefe sued Central Lakes College for expelling him based on posts that it said violated the school’s student handbook:

In November 2012, two fellow students approached Kim Scott, an instructor in the nursing program, with concerns related to the content of Keefe’s Facebook posts. In the posts, he addressed frustrations with other students in a class using phrases such as “stupid bitch” and “not enough whiskey to control that anger.”

The school didn’t allow Keefe to appeal the expulsion, leading him to argue the school “did not give him the proper due process to defend himself because the matter was misclassified as ‘academic’ rather than disciplinary,” SPLC says.

The Minnesota Supreme Court already ruled in a 2012 case that a college can punish a person for Facebook posts if “the academic program rules were narrowly tailored and directly related to established professional conduct standards.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education told SPLC the ruling didn’t make a crucial distinction between disciplinary action based on academic versus non-academic misconduct.

Keefe’s lawyer has already appealed the ruling.

Read the full SPLC story here, and read the ruling here.

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Research by George Mason University’s David Kravitz and colleagues reveals that, while “affirmative action policies in the workforce have increased diversity,” they’ve also had the effect of “stigmatizing the very workers the policies are designed to help.”

Kravitz and management professors Lisa Leslie of New York University and David Mayer of the University of Michigan built on previous studies that found that affirmative action recipients were viewed as less competent, which creates feelings of self-doubt for recipients.

To counteract this effect, organizations should emphasize the qualifications of new hires, the researchers said, and allow the staff to know them as a person—their interests, hobbies, and such. Companies also should reinforce the message that a stronger, more diverse team helps the whole organization succeed.

“When a person is a member of a group targeted by an affirmative action plan, anyone who believes affirmative action involves preferences may not know why they were hired,” Kravitz says. “Maybe they were hired because they’re great. Or maybe the corporation wants to hit a target. To eliminate stigmatization, make sure everyone knows that the affirmative action program does not involve preferences and highlight the competence and credentials of the new hires.”

Those hired through affirmative action programs also need to be reminded that they were selected for their qualifications and that others know of their qualifications.

Here’s a thought: If “everyone” (employees) need to be made aware that a new hire was brought on board because of his/her qualifications, then why not ditch affirmative action altogether?

The “stronger, more diverse team” mantra seems a lot like that used in education (and which the US Supreme Court unfortunately bought in the University of Michigan Grutter case) — that some mystical “critical mass” of minorities somehow makes the academic experience “better.” (The National Association of Scholars provides a brilliant rebuttal to this belief.)

Read the full article here.

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If you accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you should “check your privilege,” says Lauren Thurman, opinion editor for the University of Colorado Boulder’s student newspaper the Independent. 

“Citizens and celebrities from all over the United States forgot their privilege this summer as they dumped buckets of perfectly clean water over their heads in the name of philanthropy — the Internet sensation known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in whichibc people post and tag videos on social media as an alternative to donating to the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Association,” she wrote in an op-ed this week.

Her reprimand goes on:

Based on the number of donors – claims 1.3 million people have joined the organization this year – we can assume that several million gallons of clean water have been used to perpetuate the fad. All this to get out of making a donation to a worthy cause.

While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been effective in raising money, it has somehow blinded the Western world to other issues, such as water shortages. Twenty-five percent of Colorado is currently in at least a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

When people within state lines struggle to grow food or support their livelihoods – to say nothing of those elsewhere who struggle to find drinking water at all – it’s usually not a good move to pour large amounts of water over your head on camera because you didn’t want to click a PayPal link.What do you think?

If there’s one message new and returning students — especially on a campus like ours — should carry with them through the semester and beyond, it’s a simple one: check yourself.

Read the full column.

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