Students react to a hoverboard-less UMass campus

By Marie MacCune

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(Ben Larcey/Daily Collegian)

(Ben Larcey/Daily Collegian)

University of Massachusetts students received notice over winter break that administration banned one of the year’s hottest Christmas gifts from its campus; hoverboards.

In an email sent to students Jan. 8, Donald Robinson, executive director of Environmental Health and Safety at the University, explained that the ban “includes self-balancing scooters, battery-operated scooters and hands-free segways.”

According to the email, UMass joined a growing number of universities across the country that have banned hoverboard use on campus. Robinson cited bans at American University, George Washington University, Emerson College, Louisiana State University and the University of Denver as examples.

The rest of the UMass system followed suit, as the Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell campuses have also banned the hoverboards.

UMass Environmental Health and Safety staff members will follow news and regulations regarding hoverboards and will reevaluate the ban if they become safer.

Students, now back on campus for the spring semester, expressed their thoughts on the ban.

“I think that the ban of hoverboards from campus was a good thing,” Meghan Muldoon, a freshman nursing student, said. “They were very disruptive in high traffic areas when walking to class, and they caused a lot of injuries from people face-planting. Also, hearing about the fires and explosions that they have caused have reaffirmed my opinions on them.”

Jillian Palubicki, also a freshman nursing student, had similar sentiments. “Not only will there be less foot traffic confusion, there will also be less danger with falls and explosions,” she said.

In contrast, Emily Starratt, a junior psychology major, disagreed with the University’s action.

“While it’s appreciated that administration wants to keep students safe, students should be able to make decisions on their own whether or not they want to take the risk to use the product. Many items can be defective so where does administration draw the line when making bans?” she said.

Reports of boards suddenly catching fire, exploding and increased hospital visits due to burns and falls led the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to launch an investigation into what causes these hazards and provide recommendations for American consumers.

Elliot Kaye, CPSC chairman, released a statement last month saying that he is “concerned that there is no safety standard in place for hoverboards. Strong safety standards protect consumers.”

He also added that as part of the investigation, “CPSC engineers in our National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Maryland have tested and will continue to test new and damaged boards in search of an answer for why some models caught fire during the charging stage and others caught fire while in use.  Our expert staff is looking particularly closely at the configuration of the battery packs and compatibility with the chargers.”

According to the email from Robinson, some airlines have banned hoverboards on flights and a number of retailers have suspended sales of the product.

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MarieMacCune.