Creating a Safe Space on Campus for Skateboarding
Over the past few decades, the world has seen skateboarding turn into a sensation among youth. Not only have we seen the impact of skateboarding on the young, but we have also seen its impact on street culture, the media and even athletic events like the Olympics. Skateboarding has grown and so has its cultural and societal image.
Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, skateboarders were seen as criminals and the scum of society. These days, however, the skateboarding world has professionals that have garnered multi-million dollar contracts with companies like Nike, Adidas and New Balance. Skateboarding has a new appeal and look that makes the activity more attractive for people and gives skateboarders fresh opportunities.
Even though there is this new appeal to skateboarding around the world, ODU does not view it in the same way. The campus’s skateboarders have experienced how the chances of enjoying skateboarding safely around campus have been destroyed. Last year, skateboarders at ODU had the library “spot,” where skateboarding was enjoyed without hurting anybody and most importantly, in a safe environment on campus. This year, however, things have changed. The university felt the need to take this safe haven for skateboarding by adding steel caps on concrete ledges.
These caps prevent all skateboarders from sliding on the blocks of concrete outside the library. Yes, some skateboarding tricks require sliding on the blocks creating a black slippery surface that some institutions brand as vandalism, but to be fair as a student of the university, I, alongside fellow ODU skateboarders, have paid for those blocks to be built. Furthermore, it is safer to skate on campus instead of surrounding areas that are not under university surveilance. I know that I will be protected if someone tries to rob or create any harm towards me.
I was once kicked out by campus police at 10 p.m. on a Saturday for skateboarding on those blocks. The officer told me that it would be safer to skate off campus because he did not want me to get hurt and sue the school. But there was a greater chance of me getting hurt off campus in the middle of the night in an incident that did not involve me falling off a skateboard. With this safe spot gone, student skateboarders have gone to great lengths to find a place to safely skate on campus but so far, any attempts have been futile.
The removal of this ideal spot for skateboarders has made it so students have to skate in downtown Norfolk at night. This is not safe for any skateboarder in Norfolk and furthermore, it creates yet another disturbance for Norfolk Police to handle.
This is an inconvenience for a city that is already infested with crime. In addition, the tickets that are issued to skateboarders downtown create more of a financial burden for college students, along with possibly developing them a criminal record. This treatment of skateboarders ruins our reputation because we are seen as bad people. This is an inappropriate label because skateboarders are just enjoying a healthy passion that gives them something to do and keeps them in good physical shape.
Skateboarding is a way of life that keeps individuals from doing worse things with their lives. I believe ODU needs to reconsider this policy of prohibiting students to do skateboarding tricks on campus. The university should create some sort of safe spot area similar to the concrete blocks in front of Perry library where skaters feel safe and not have to worry about any trouble.
I understand the university’s point of view in which they claim skateboarders can sue. A solution to this problem would be to post “skate at your own risk” signs which waives the university’s liability. I encourage ODU to take action on this situation, enabling skateboarders to enjoy their favorite hobby in life without cause for concern. Skateboarding is not only a sport, it is a way of life.