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Safe spaces wanted for hoverboards, now subject to confiscation and fines at colleges nationwide

UW-Madison is threatening $263 penalty

As colleges bend over backward to give aggrieved campus constituencies their own “safe spaces,” one demographic is facing overt discrimination: hoverboard owners.

Students across the country are scrambling to find new homes for their self-balancing scooters, which have a penchant for spontaneously catching fire, after dozens of colleges started banning them without warning.

Many schools have promised to confiscate the popular holiday gifts if they aren’t taken off campus, and at least one university is threatening to fine their owners, according to The College Fix’s review of official bans.

Notably missing in college announcements is any suggestion that hoverboards have in fact caught fire on campus.

Another reason to hate your RA

Northwestern University was one of the most recent to ban the devices. In a campuswide email Wednesday obtained by The Fix, the Office of Residential Services told students the hoverboards would be banned in residence halls, graduate apartments and residential dining halls starting Jan. 22.

Despite the tough language, Executive Director Paul Riel told The Fix in a phone interview that the boards would not be confiscated nor their owners fined, and he didn’t know of any injuries on campus related to hoverboards.

Northwestern sophomore Ogey Ibik told The Fix she saw fellow students “riding them in our university center and to class” before the weather turned cold.

“I’ve never thought that hoverboards were an effective method of transportation, so I’m personally not too gutted about” the new ban, Ibik said in a Twitter message. “They seem kind of unnecessary.”

In contrast, resident assistants and campus cops will confiscate any hoverboards they find, Emerson College told students last week.

In an email obtained by The Fix, Director of Housing and Residence Life Erik Muurisepp suggested the devices were under scrutiny before fires started being reported.

Muurisepp said “hoverboards, self-propelled scooters or similar devices” pose an “unacceptable risk of crashes, falls, and speeding in our crowded hallways and elevators,” and “recent information has revealed” the fire risk.

‘Very upset about the ban’

William Paterson University in New Jersey imposed its residence-hall ban “immediately,” according to a campuswide email shared on Twitter.

Emphasizing that other New Jersey colleges had already banned them, Vice President of Student Development Miki Cammarata said the school would update students on “our expectation regarding devices that may currently be stored in resident rooms.” Hoverboards are also banned from charging in campus buildings.

The email isn’t dated but the Student Government Association’s first reference to the ban on its Twitter feed was Thursday.

Though student reactions on social media tended toward indifference or amusement, WPU student Felix Castillo told The Fix he was “very upset about the ban because I wanted it to be for college use.” He’s going to keep his hoverboard, just not on campus.

University of Wisconsin-Madison police have discretion to fine hoverboard users $263 – the same penalty for skateboarding – if they are caught riding the devices on campus, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Though currently they can be stored in the dorms, a UW-Madison spokesman said officials are discussing a storage ban.

Only if it’s approved by Underwriters Laboratories

More than 30 colleges have temporarily or permanently banned hoverboards citing safety concerns, including Boston College, Kean University, American University, George Mason University, Indiana University and the entire University of Connecticut system, USA Today reported.

Yale University and Rutgers University also announced Wednesday that they have imposed total bans, according to the Yale Daily News and Daily Targum.

One of the first to impose a campuswide ban was Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, which imposed its ban Dec. 14 – right after reports of hoverboard fires became known, the Associated Press said.

Ohio State appears to be unique among schools by issuing a specific criterion for approved hoverboards in residence halls last month.

“The limitation pertains to hoverboards and other lithium battery powered transportation devices if those devices are not approved by Underwriters Laboratory [sic],” The Lantern reported. However, UL has yet to certify any hoverboards for safety.

Emails to Rutgers University and Emerson College were not immediately returned Thursday.

The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission praised colleges this week for “taking steps to keep students safe” from hoverboards. It said it’s investigating 37 fires in 19 states. Just after Christmas the commission said it knew of “70 ER-treated injuries and counting.”

IMAGE: Lenscap Photography/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Peter Maxwell -- MA Lynn University. BA, Curry College