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Miami pumps brakes on popular hoverboards

By Maggie Callaghan, Senior Staff Writer

Miami University Student Affairs notified all students, faculty and staff through email on Tuesday, Jan. 12 of the immediate prohibition of using, possessing or storing hoverboards on all Miami campuses. These models include the Hoverboard, Swagway, IO Hawks and Skywalkers, according to the email.

Those who still chose to bring their hoverboard to campus will have to store their device at the Miami University Police Department's services center on Route 3, where the hoverboards will be left unplugged.

Jayne Brownell, vice president of student affairs, said this is because most fires have occurred during or after charging.

"Recent events have demonstrated that some batteries and chargers for self-balancing personal scooters, popularly called hoverboards, can be prone to explosion, creating a substantial safety and fire risk," university officials wrote in the email.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission sent out a report on Dec. 16, 2015, outlining its investigation into the risk of the hoverboards. Their report states there have been 28 known fires in 19 states, with 70 emergency room-related injuries.

Bans on hoverboards first made national headlines when American Airlines and United Airlines decided to ban the scooters right before the busy holiday travel season. On Dec. 26, 2015, a video surfaced of a hoverboard exploding in a busy Houston mall. Then, in the wake of the controversy, Super Bowl-bound Carolina Panthers announced on Jan. 18 that their head coach, Ron Rivera, had banned hoverboards from the stadium and athletic facilities after watching YouTube videos of the device catching on fire.

Claire Wagner, director of communications, said talks about the ban of hoverboards began after resident directors grew concerned over stories of fires caused by the hoverboards in residence halls at other universities. Once concerns grew over the toy's safety, university officials acted swiftly.

"We wanted to get the word out before students started to pack to come back," said Wagner.

Miami joins a growing list of over 30 universities that have banned hoverboards on their campus due to the fire risk. Ohio University announced on Jan. 17 that students would no longer be permitted to use or store their device on campus.

Brownell said Miami felt it was important to implement these safety measures until more information is available about the fires in connection to the hoverboards.

"It is not clear which boards are safer than others," she said.

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Although the banning of hoverboards seems to be a growing trend, the city of Oxford does not plan to ban hoverboards.

Oxford City Manager Douglas Elliott said the city does not feel the need to ban the popular device since not all hoverboards are dangerous.

"We are in a different situation than Miami," Elliott said. "Miami owns residence halls, but the city doesn't."

Elliott said if a ban would come, it would be from landlords who own property in Oxford, not from the city.

Residence directors will be responsible for looking out for hoverboards in their dorms, and students who do not report their hoverboard to their resident director or MUPD will face a first offense against University Policy and will be handled by student affairs.