Four skateboarders caught the brunt of the Mississippi State University Police Department's efforts to stop the unauthorized use of skateboards on campus.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25 at about 6:30 p.m., Austin Bowlin said he and three friends had been sitting on the benches in front of the Union for about 30 minutes after skateboarding when they were approached by three campus police officers.
“We had been skating, and then they came up to us. They came one from each side. I guess to make sure we didn't walk away or something," Bowlin, a junior majoring in computer engineering, said.
Bowlin said the officers asked for their boards, and when they refused the officers asked if they realized if they were in violation of a University policy.
“The Bulldog Handbook" under the heading of “Bicycles, Motorcycles, Other Motorized Vehicles, Skateboards, and In-Line Skates” states, in part, “The use of skateboards and in-line skates on campus will not be permitted. The volume of motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic renders unsafe conditions for the use of skateboards and in-line skates."
Bowlin said he then asked why the officers had "singled them out" for skateboarding when bicyclists, also in violation of the policy, were also in the area.
"They just said, 'Bicyclists don't jump on the benches, and we haven't received any complaints about bike riders.' We had a complaint lodged about us," Bowlin said.
The officers asked for the group's identification. After the group produced their IDs, they were dismissed with a warning that upon a second offense they would be referred to the Dean of Students, Bowlin said.
"They took one guy to the station who didn't have his ID with him."
Kevin Harthcock, a senior in chemical engineering, was taken to the MSU Police Station, where his identification information was put into the computer and he was subsequently dismissed.
“I think it's unfair that there are more than just skateboarders violating their policy, and we are getting harassed the most," Harthcock said of the incident.
Dean of Students Mike White said skateboarding, in-line skating, motorcycles and bicycles on the sidewalks are all direct violations of the campus policy and disciplinary action would have to be taken against violators.
“We just don't need to mix pedestrians with people on vehicles of any kind,” White said.
White offered some solutions to the problem for displaced skateboarders. “There are many parking lots around campus that are generally deserted in the afternoons with very little traffic. Dorman Hall and the Coliseum both have parking lots that are good for that and some parking lots are very well lit so they could be used at night. We have to look out for pedestrian safety on the sidewalks and parking-lot use would not conflict with this."