Rolling Through Red Square

Red Square Skateboarding Through the Eyes of Brooke Flores

Dear AS President Belina Seare,

As a first year student here, I love Western Washington University. I love how the students here are accepting, open minded, and inclusive. I love the beautiful campus and the surrounding arboretum. But above all, I love Red Square.

Red Square is known throughout Western’s community as place to make friends and conversation. It is a place to gather around and do homework, petition, sing, or even play a game of four square. That being said, Red Square is an extremely crowded area that isn’t only used for relaxing, studying, and socializing. It is also used as a main walkway for students and faculty to get around campus. So when you add skateboarders to the mix, it makes the walk to class even more stressful.

Adding unnecessary stress and safety issues to the bystanders

Skateboarders are generally cool people. They just get very irritating when they ride through crowds of people walking to class or when they try to do a trick right in the pathway of pedestrians. All this does is create a safety hazard to everyone who wanders through Red Square. They constantly bump and crash into people. And it is unfair to ask the people to watch out for the skater because there are already so many things to look out for in the Square, including runners, dogs, protestors, and other people that are in a rush to reach their next location. Skateboarders just add to the already busy social hub and create a stressful and unsafe environment for the passerby.

But their riding here doesn’t only create safety issues for the people walking by, it is also a safety concern for the skateboarders themselves. Many people who wander through Red Square are preoccupied by the other events going on and are very focused on the goal of getting to class. In addition, many have headphones in or are talking to friends as they walk. I have seen people like this walk into the pathway of a skater and they can’t hear the skater’s plea to move out of the way. It isn’t even the skateboarder’s fault but they have to jump off last minute to avoid hitting someone. Sometimes, others aren’t even involved when they fall off of their decks. Red Square was built on a marsh and has very unstable ground. Luckily, the builders laid down brick to allow for the ground to naturally shift. This is all bad news for a skater. Do you know how easy it is to fall down when you hit a stone, let alone a raised up brick? I am surprised that they don’t fall every time they ride through Red Square.

In addition to safety, skateboards are bothersome because they are very noisy on the bricks. You can hear the constant clatter of the plastic wheels as they roll throughout the square. The sound echoes into the surrounding academic buildings. My favorite study spot in the library is ruined any time someone decides to skateboard in the square. All I can hear for the next hour is crashes and clanks as the board hits the ground and rumbles away.

The purpose of this space is to be a community area that allows people to do things, like petition, while others continue to use this space to move. Unfortunately, skaters hinder the success of Red Square because they make for a stressful and unsafe environment. But all of these issues are easily avoidable by banning skating in Red Square.

How large is the issue?

Earlier this quarter, an English 101 assignment led me to observe Red Square for just an hour. In that short amount of time, I witnessed over twenty skateboarders. Many were going extremely fast and only a small handful were actually successful in giving people their space. During this time, I also witnessed a young man on a board collide with a bench in an attempt to avoid a clueless bystander on her phone. Let me remind you, injuries and safety concerns apply to both the people in Red Square and the skaters themselves.

But many non-skaters don’t seem to share this idea that it’s not always the skateboarder’s fault. After posting, “Thoughts on Red Square skaters?” on one of WWU’s popular social media platforms, Yik Yak, I got over 20 replies that were all very negative and belligerent. One anonymous contributor wrote, “They almost run into me every day. They don’t even try to avoid me; they think it is the pedestrians’ responsibility to get out of the way. Honestly I hate them so much, they’re so inconsiderate.” Another Yik Yak user explained, “Everyone is trying to get to class, not just you. Like seriously they need to get off and walk.”

This negativity and widespread anger towards skaters makes me curious as to why skaters put their own safety at risk and feel that it is okay to ride around in a place so full of people. Dr. Paul Heilker, a man with 20 plus years in academia, wrote an article called “On Genres as a Way of Being”. In this article he claimed, “Writing in that genre gave me, required of me new ways of being in the world”. In short, his article explains how people act differently when exposed to different genres. So maybe the genre of college itself is bringing out these skateboarders. They feel that the center of a college campus; a place that is inconvenient not only for others but themselves as well, is the best place to skate due to the genre that they are in. But it also could be the genre of skateboarding itself. Dr. Laura Neilson, a Professor of Sociology, claims, “ some skaters want to be perceived as outsiders. Rebellion is part of the allure of the sport.”(Neilson). So maybe the skateboarders enjoy skating in Red Square because it adds to the rebellious nature.

What can we do?

Heilker’s idea in “On Genres as a Way of Being” supports that skaters are likely not going to make the decision to stop riding through Red Square on their own. This is what they believe to be the genre of a college campus and no amount of community backlash or self-injury will deter all of them from doing this. So now it is time for the school to step in. After all, WWU’s Department of Public Safety’s mission statement claims, “[We] work together towards a common goal; providing a safe, secure, and accessible educational environment.” (“Department of Public Safety.”). It is time for the student government to take action in fixing this problem.

It needs to be clearly and frequently posted that skating is not allowed in the square. This solution can be as simple as posting a few more “no skateboarding” signs around Red Square. They need to be posted in plain sight so that they can be viewed by a skater as they enter. In addition to signs, this rule needs to be enforced, not only by the public but by the University as well. Any security personal, such as a Green Coat and Public Safety, should be trained to ask the skater to respectably dismount if they are unaware of, or unwilling to accept the rule.

In addition, it should be publically encouraged for skateboarders who do not want to dismount to ride along the service road behind the campus. This road stretches from Fairhaven to Old Main and can act as a roadway for skateboarders who choose not to dismount or need to get somewhere fast. These roads are paved properly and will not only stop the sound of clanking brinks throughout campus, but also allow skateboarders to ride with a reduced risk of self-injury.

Lastly, it would be helpful to add on skate stoppers to the benches surrounding Red Square. Since most of the skateboarders enjoy doing tricks on these benches, it will deter them from using this spot to ride. In the end, with proper execution of signs and enforcement, there will be a widespread decrease in stress and an increase in safety.

Your Role.

As you saw on Yik Yak, there are so many students that want to end skateboarding in Red Square; but we are missing the means to make a difference. You have the power to mention this issue at next week’s AS board meeting, suggest the skate stoppers on benches, extra “no skating signs”, and the change in Public Safety protocol. You have the resources to propose a budget to fix this widespread issue. It is time for action and the student body needs you to speak on behalf of us.

Conflicts with the solution.

But the solution is not that simple. There will be backlash from WWU’s skating community. There are a few clubs that likely contribute to skateboarding around campus. For example, the WWU Longboarding Club which has 244 members and the WWU Skateboarding club with an unknown amount of members. As I mentioned before, many interpret Red Square as a place they can freely skate through due to the genre of a college campus.

I have also heard the argument that skateboarders should at least be allowed to use Red Square as their personal skate park after dark, when the square is almost vacant. But even though they are not putting others in harm’s way, they still are putting themselves at risk. In addition, the sounds of their board continue to echo into Wilson Library where many study late at night.

So yes, these new rules will upset the skating community; but, just like with most public policies, once people adapt to the new rules, complaints will become less and less frequent.

Final thoughts.

Our President, Barrack Obama recently said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” (“Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Super Tuesday”). It is time for change. It is time to banish Red Square skateboarding. Skateboarding is a noisy, irritating, and unsafe sport to do in this location. There are many other spots to practice tricks that aren’t on the noisy bricks. As for those trying to get across campus in the fastest fashion possible, there is a paved service road that runs along the entire campus that is much safer for everyone, including the faculty and students.

Think for a moment about the amount of complaints you receive annually about skateboarding. It is time to add this issue to the agenda of next week’s AS executive board meeting. We need enforcement and change to reduce the stress and injury of everyone on campus.

Thank you,

Brooke Flores

Works Cited

· “Department of Public Safety.” Public Safety| Western Washington University. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

· Heilker, Paul. “On Genres as a Way of Being”

· Nielsen, Laura Beth. “Skateboarding Is Still a Crime, But the Sport Is Admirable.” The Huffington Post. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

· “Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Super Tuesday” (February 2008)