HRL enacts temporary ban on hoverboards for campus housing

Hoverboard graphic

Monica Kast

Joining other universities, WKU Housing and Residence Life has placed a temporary ban on hoverboards and similar vehicles in residence halls and apartments on campus.

This decision was made in lieu of recent reports of hoverboards catching fire while charging.

Last semester, it was announced that hoverboards were included in WKU’s recreational mobility policy and banned from use in and around buildings on campus, according to the WKU Student Code of Conduct.

Students received an email from HRL on Jan. 14 that described the new temporary policy.

The new policy states, “Motorized vehicles and electronic skateboards, including hover boards, self-balancing scooters, and other similar equipment are prohibited from being used, stored and/or charged in all university-managed residence halls and apartments.”

Kit Tolbert, director of HRL, said when faculty returned to campus after the break and saw warnings about hoverboards as well as other universities’ bans on them, they decided to create a new policy for WKU.

Tolbert said the main issue with the hoverboards is their tendency to catch fire. However, she said she does not see the ban becoming a permanent policy on campus.

“This policy is what we have in place for now,” Tolbert said. “Once the industry can correct them and make the hoverboards safer, we’ll lift that ban.”

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that there have been at least 40 investigations involving fires started from hoverboards in the United States. Most of these investigations concern hoverboards’ lithium-ion batteries smoking and catching fire. In the same email detailing the new policy, HRL said reports from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission raised safety concerns and influenced the department’s decision to ban hoverboards.

Jennifer Tougas, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said she was initially informed about safety issues and combustion involving hoverboards by a coworker in the transportation department. The department then decided to ban hoverboards from buses on campus as well as buildings.

“For safety’s sake, we won’t be allowing hover-boards on the WKU buses starting spring semester,” Tougas said in an email.

Other colleges and universities across the U.S. have taken similar action. The University of Kentucky temporarily banned hoverboards and similar devices “based upon University of Kentucky safety standards and recent instances of batteries from electronic skateboards and self-balancing devices bursting into flames,” according to a press release from UK. The press release also stated that “all students, faculty and staff must leave these devices at an off-campus location.”

Eastern Kentucky University and Murray State University have instituted similar policies, according to press releases from each school.

Outside Kentucky, other universities like Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are also banning hoverboards until more is known about the fires’ causes.

Michael Crowe, Jr., the director of Judicial Affairs at WKU, wants to remind students these devices are not allowed in buildings during the spring 2016 semester.

“The Office of Judicial Affairs will be using the current recreational mobility code of conduct to address the issue of recreational use of these boards and raise awareness of proper use and safety as a layer to the policy change,” Crowe said in an email.