Immediate changes to UCSB’s campus skateboarding policies were averted yesterday, after university administrators agreed to postpone their decisions until more research is collected.
Nearly 60 people – including students, administrators and staff – gathered in the UCen’s Harbor Room yesterday to discuss possible skateboard bans. At the town hall meeting, administrators decided not to make any rule revisions until staff members obtain enough data concerning the number of skateboarding-related accidents that occur on campus, how many students use them and what effects a skateboard ban might have on UCSB. A smaller audience attended a similar forum the previous day.
Most of the meeting’s attendants said they oppose a skateboard ban. Jonathan Eymann, a UCSB alum who is now an instructional assistant for the Dept. of Art History, said a ban is not practical.
“I grew up in this town, and I have been skating for 18 years,” Eymann said. “I think it is important for us to integrate everybody’s concerns. I hope all the parties involved can find a common solution. There is enough money and manpower [to find a resolution] other than just getting rid of [skateboarding].”
Discussion panelist and Student Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Downing said she became interested in the issue when she and her administrators at Student Health noticed an increase in the number of skateboarding-related accidents. Student Health’s physical therapy, dentistry and urgent care departments all saw an increase in accidents, totaling about 25 a month, Downing said.
The meeting included a brief overview of various University of California schools’ skateboard policies and a public comment period.
A map of the UCSB campus was hung on the wall during the two meetings. Colored pencils were provided to audience members to mark spots on campus that have sidewalk cracks and high volumes of traffic. Campus Planning Director Dennis Whelan said the map was another method for the forum’s visitors to express their opinions.
Associated Students President Stephanie Brower also attended Wednesday’s meeting. She said a skateboarding group similar to the A.S. Bicycle Improvements Keeps Everyone Safe organization could help discuss transportation problems and educate skateboarders.
“Since skateboarding has been growing so much, and has been perceived to grow so much, it might be beneficial to the community to have a place where students are represented,” Brower said. “Because unless the campus takes the initiative to do what they did this week, and pull together a town hall… there’s no way for people who have a vested interest in skating to get their voices heard.”
Meanwhile, Whelan said the university had received a few skateboarding-related complaints from disabled students. He said one disabled person said the sound of a skateboard could be intimidating because he is unable to judge the speed and direction of a skateboarder. However, Whelan also said that the disabled individual was very appreciative of skateboarders who would get off their boards and walk by him as opposed to continued riding.
Other suggestions included educational skateboard safety presentations, creating skateboard registries, developing skateboard-only pathways and fixing existing pathways to help minimize accidents.
While no formal changes were made at the meeting, administrators said they will continue gathering statistics, forming focus groups and, possibly by this summer, repairing sidewalks.
Whelan said he felt the meetings were constructive, and that the existing rules could work if skateboarders put in extra effort to skate responsibly.
“I think the regulations as they exist could serve to work adequately if [skateboarders] took it upon themselves to educate each other,” Whelan said. “[The meetings were] very rewarding.”
The forum was called after the Public Safety Committee sent a memo to Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Donna Carpenter requesting a review of campus skateboarding policy, which has not been amended since 1988. Other panelists at the town hall meeting included Disability Compliance Officer Farfalla Borah and Associate Vice Chancellor of Campus Design and Facilities Marc Fisher.