Hoverboard Accessories
Credit: Dave Granlund, PoliticalCartoons.com / CTNewsJunkie via Cagle Cartoons / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Kerri Ana Provost

As students move onto campus, I’m taken back in time to when I learned about the existence of hot plates because they were one of three items I recall being forbidden in dorms. The others were alcohol and open flame. Although the teen years I had just survived involved ample unsupervised use of everything from an oven to a BB gun, I understood my college was simply trying to save us from ourselves. There is still a need for this, I learned, when someone in a friend’s son’s dorm thought it would be a cute prank to add mothballs to his laundry. Despite what the Internet tells us, there is no simple way to remove that smell in two washes or less. Unfortunately, not all lapses in judgment are merely stinky. 

This year, Yale University stole the show with back-to-back campus safety oddities. Yale’s police union distributed a flyer that doubles as a case study in moral panic. It advises students to – among other things – avoid public transit. They made this recommendation because of a rare violent episode at Union Station, exploiting the ignorance of those new to the area who are not tapped into everyday New Haven life yet and would not know that using the train or bus is generally a safe activity not just in this city, but across the country. Although public transportation is 10 times safer than traveling by car, Yale police did not acknowledge this and funny enough did not advise students to avoid driving – an activity that has brought harm to the community. 

During this shameful moment, Yale also released its new policy banning e-bikes from campus. For the 2023-24 year, “E-Scooters, e-skateboards, e-bikes, hoverboards and similar battery operated personal mobility devices” are not allowed in undergraduate dorm rooms. Had this been driven by data instead of emotion, we would see Yale and other colleges across the state opting to ban cars instead, as motor vehicle crashes were responsible for over 42,795 deaths in the United States last year alone. Yet, Yale not only tolerates motor vehicles, they provide 12 locations on campus for charging EVs.

In 2017, Yale was awarded gold level Bicycle Friendly University status by the League of American Bicyclists. It seems that the act of prohibiting a type of bicycle from campus would endanger that ranking as a Bicycle Friendly University.

The policies about mobility devices with an electric assist vary from one campus to the next.

Wesleyan University, which also has EV charging stations on its campus, bans hoverboards, e-bikes, e-scooters, and any other electronic personal transportation vehicles because of a fire risk. Sacred Heart University, calling this “rideable technology,” does the same.

UConn, a Bike Friendly Campus, shows the potential to change, with its Active Transportation Plan (October 2022) recommending adoption of a sharing service for e-bikes or e-scooters. They also urge reconsideration of the existing semi-ban on e-bikes, which states electric personal transportation vehicles “cannot be charged, operated, stored, or used inside residence halls and all other University of Connecticut buildings, including dining halls.” The ATP suggests that instead of limiting students’ mobility, the university provides appropriate and safe charging areas. After all, UConn students may not charge or store cars in their dorms, but they are allowed to drive and park cars on campus in designated spaces, some of which are EV charging stations. 

E-bikes are not among banned items at Trinity College, though students are told that bicycles and scooters cannot be left in hallways or stairways where they might block an evacuation route. At Fairfield University, the bicycle is not acknowledged as a mobility tool that can deliver students to class; instead, it’s deemed “recreational transportation equipment” and not allowed in buildings, though e-bikes are not strictly banned. There’s a reasonable compromise: “items that need to be charged must carry UL approval for their power cords to be brought/stored in any building.” University of Saint Joseph does not name e-bikes, merely advising students to “comply with proper usage of potentially hazardous items.”

Anything with a lithium battery is potentially hazardous, but with care they do not have to be. Will colleges continue banning every single item that trends because it caught on fire, or could they be more practical and add life skill development during orientation, helping students gain more than book smarts? Considering how many electronics have entered our daily lives in the last few decades, it seems foolish for students to not be taught how to care for their laptops, phones, and any other tools using lithium batteries.

Currently, there are 45 Quinnipiac University students assigned to live in dorm lounges instead of rooms because the institution carelessly overenrolled. That does not sound like campus safety is a top concern, to be honest, and it makes one question those trusted to decide how to keep the student population safe.

Kerri Ana Provost is a Hartford-based writer who also publishes at RealHartford.org.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com or any of the author's other employers.