Skateboarding might be a crime

It depends on the mood of University police, because it’s up to them.

by Mike Munzenrider

The first time I received a citation from police for anything was when I was 14. Not to be outdone, my little brother received his first citation at the age of 11.
Our crimes? Skateboarding together on the University of Minnesota campus. Contrary to the tired mantra “skateboarding is not a crime,” skateboarding really is a crime.
More specifically, it is a misdemeanor in the eyes of the University. As stated by the Regents Traffic Regulations Ordinances: “[N]o person shall ride or operate a skateboard upon properties owned, leased or occupied by the University of Minnesota.”
The trouble is that it’s only a misdemeanor part of the time. This past April, a Minnesota Daily report quoted Deputy Police Chief Chuck Miner saying that while the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances prohibits use of skateboards on any pathways, officers use “discretion” in charging boarders.
 “If somebody is using it for a form of transportation to get from point A to point B, generally we don’t issue citations for those actions,” Miner told the Daily.
Because the University police issue skateboarding citations at their discretion, it must mean that skateboarding for transportation around campus is on an upswing.
This columnist, to wit, has a finely tuned ear to the sound of approaching skateboard wheels and after all these years I think my “shredder sense” is still quite prescient. After just this first week back on campus, whenever that shredder sense goes off, I’ve come to learn that I should expect a commuter, most likely on a longboard, and probably not a fellow partner in crime.
Even more unscientifically, during a fact finding mission at Familia, a local skateboard shop — read: summer job — the amount of longboards sold and longboard inquiries was far and above anything my retail memory could tell me about previous years. (I’ve worked skateboard retail far longer than I’d care to admit in print.)
During said fact finding mission, I met Kristin Schulte, liberal arts major and president of the Longboard Shred Clique at the University. During a brief phone call, Schulte graciously declined an interview for this column, essentially citing the tenuous legality of her club.
The very existence of the Shred Clique here at the University, and the fact that it was started by a woman, in the notoriously chauvinistic, though progressing, world of skateboarding, is a big thing; maybe skateboarding should be taken more seriously on campus.
I should point out that I’m no apologist for what could be seen as the origin of the skateboard ordinance. The property damage and nuisance factors that are inherent to some skateboarding exist. If I’d had grounds to fight the subsequent citations I’ve received on campus since age 14, I certainly would have.
However, the existence of an ordinance that is only enforced part of the time, and in a discretionary way, is silly on many levels. One could channel Allen Iverson — “We’re talking about traffic laws” — and essentially be correct.
On the other hand, the Regents could amend the skateboard rule with something similar to the bicycle ordinance, which says nobody is to bike on the University campus, except “in a prudent and careful manner, with reasonable regard to the safety of the operator and other persons.”
It’s a simple and logical change that would allow students like Schulte to enjoy their chosen pastime their way, and not at the discretion of the cops.

Mike Munzenrider is a columnist. Please send comments to [email protected]