Students Fight With University Administrators Over Drones on Campus


How would you feel knowing your university was recording your every move?

Well according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, more than 30 universities applied for permits to operate drones on campus in 2012. Many of these are prominent universities like Cornell University and Georgia Tech.

Earlier this year, Campus Reform reported on Georgia Tech University’s police department’s denied request for an FAA permit in order to “follow individuals on foot” and “locate threats.”

Students are now starting to take matters into their own hands and get involved in the discussions. During Senator Rand Paul’s(R-Ky.) filibuster last month, the student government at California State University, Fresno, passed a resolution banning on-campus surveillance drones.

“This is about student privacy,” Sen. Neil O’Brien, author of the resolution, told Campus Reform, “[T]his has to do with an interest in protecting students' Fourth Amendment rights, defending them against unwarranted searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment right to due process.”

So now we have a conundrum: do we allow drones on campus for academic purposes, or do we ban them entirely?

If we begin allowing them on campus, even as purely academic exercises, what do we do when the universities begin to use them to record the activities of students like Georgia Tech tried? Where do we draw the line between student privacy and academic freedom on campus? As long as the university is open about their intentions with the drones, students have no reason to be concerned.

Where we should draw the line, is when the university records students without their knowledge. Universities should be a safe place where students can come to learn about a variety of industries, including aviation, without worrying about their 4th amendment rights to privacy being violated.

Student governments should definitely speak up and get involved in the discussion and work with the administration to set boundaries on their own campuses.