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UMass Amherst, BC ban hoverboards

Not welcome: Boston College and UMass Amherst have banned hoverboards.
Not welcome: Boston College and UMass Amherst have banned hoverboards. AFP/Getty Images

If Marty McFly ever returns to the future, there are a few more colleges here he won’t be able to visit.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston College, Suffolk University, and Brandeis University have joined a growing list of schools, both locally and nationally, that have banned the use and possession of hoverboards, the self-balancing, two-wheeled rolling contraptions that were among the holiday season’s most popular gifts.

School officials cited safety concerns as the reasons for the campus-wide bans, many of which took effect this week. Fires have been caused by the gadgets’ batteries, and there have been widespread incidents of users falling down, with some getting injured.

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A video of former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson riding a hoverboard went viral last week. In the video, which was viewed 21 million times, the boxer is seen spinning around on the hoverboard before falling off and onto his back. The clip highlighted for many the dangers associated with the machines.

Donald Robinson, UMass Amherst’s executive director of environmental health and safety, urged students in an e-mail this week to leave hoverboards and similar devices at home when returning to campus Jan. 19 after the winter break.

The ban at UMass Amherst includes all self-balancing scooters, battery-operated scooters, and hands-free Segways, Robinson said in the e-mail to students.

On Friday, Boston College sent students a similar e-mail.

“In light of the multiple safety concerns associated with the product — including batteries that have burst into flames — the University has implemented a policy that prohibits their use, possession, or storage on campus, effective immediately,” college officials said.

The school said its stance on hoverboards “is consistent with policies recently adopted at many colleges and universities.”

Suffolk University officials said they would no longer allow hoverboards at the school beginning in the spring.

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“It’s been in the works since December and students will be notified next week,” said university spokesman Greg Gatlin in an e-mail.

Brandeis University also banned the use of the devices on all university-owned property.

“This restriction is effective immediately and applies to all members of the university community. We will continue to monitor product-safety information and will revise this decision as merited,” Jim Gray, vice president for campus operations, said in an e-mail.

Earlier this week, Erik Muurisepp, associate dean and director of housing and residence life at Emerson, told students the devices were prohibited from campus because they present a number of safety risks and were “prone to explosion.”

Wellesley College has also enacted a policy barring hoverboards and other hands-free scooters from the school’s campus.

“The use, possession, or storage of hoverboards, and similar devices, are prohibited on the Wellesley College campus until safety standards can be developed and implemented by the manufacturers,” according to the school’s rules.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is in the midst of investigating 28 fires involving faulty hoverboards in 19 states, according to The Associated Press.

Firefighters in Somerville responded to a hoverboard fire in November, officials said. The fire was extinguished by a neighbor prior to firefighters arriving, however, and only caused minor damage to the resident’s hardwood floor.

Not all schools are totally against hoverboards.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students are prohibited from using “wheeled devices” in the school’s hallways, but not from campus.

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Harvard University also bucks the trend. The Cambridge school has restrictions on the use of bicycles and motorized vehicles in Harvard Yard, according to university spokeswoman Rachael Dane.

But students are known to use human-powered scooters to get around campus, and Dane said in an e-mail that the school does not have an outright ban on hoverboards — at least for now. “We will monitor the use of hoverboards, if the use arises, for potential restrictions,” she said.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.