By Ellie Schuckman
A new year often brings new technological advances, and 2015 brought us the hoverboard. A seemingly slick device that made the future a reality, the boards soon wreaked havoc with safety concerns and are now banned from residence halls at the College.
“Due to potential fire and safety concerns, all hoverboards are prohibited from use, possession or storage in all college residence halls effective immediately,” read the Friday, Jan. 8, email sent to students by Director of Risk Management Brian Webb and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Sean O. Stallings.
Students were further warned that if a hoverboard or similar device is found in a residence hall, they will be asked to remove it from campus. Anyone who received or purchased a device over the break is not permitted to bring it to campus.
The College joins a long list of other schools placing a ban on the devices, citing safety concerns, partially prompted by several cases of the boards spontaneously combusting, either while in use or while simply charging. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has launched an investigation into over 40 fires caused by the devices, according to a USA Today article from Friday, Jan. 22. In addition, there have been at least “70 ER-related injuries” from the hoverboards, according to the commission.
Most recently, the commission announced an expansion to its investigation that will look into falls and injuries potentially based on faulty designs in the boards, according to a CNN article from Tuesday, Jan. 21.
College spokesman Dave Muha stressed that the school reached the decision to ban the boards “independently,” and based solely on safety concerns. He also noted that the ban is specific to residence halls and that the “Department of Facilities and Administrative Services collaborated with Residential Education and Housing to implement changes to the terms of the College’s housing contract,” thus penalizing individuals should a board be found in a their dorm room.
Amid the outcry from many, Amazon — a key retail source for the boards — is now offering full refunds to anyone who bought the device from its site. The CPSC praised the decision and hopes that other retailers and manufacturers do the same, according to the same CNN article. In a statement released on Wednesday, Jan. 20, by CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye, a suspension of online sales of hoverboards was called until the commission’s investigation is complete.
Some may blame misuse of the device as reason for injury, but Kaye warns that safety measures, including keeping a fire extinguisher nearby, must be in place regardless of what is playing a factor in the string of injuries.
“At first glance, it is easy to believe the risk of falling off a hoverboard is an obvious one and to dismiss those injuries as user inexperience or error,” he said in the statement. “However, I am concerned, for example, that the current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users.”
Some at the College believe the ban is beneficial and warranted.
“Anything known to spontaneously combust probably shouldn’t be in a dorm,” sophomore accounting major Matt O’Dea said. “(However), I don’t own or plan on owning a hoverboard.”