Fresno student government bans on-campus drones during Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster

Campus Reform Reporter
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California State University – Fresno’s student government cleared a resolution on Wednesday night that would ban on-campus surveillance drones.

Fresno State’s student government passed a resolution which banned the use of on-campus surveillance drones.

Although students behind the legislation say the timing was coincidental, the surprising vote took place as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) staged a 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor challenging President Obama’s use of drones and also questioning some public university’s quest for drones.

Fresno was one of thirty four colleges which applied for a federal unmanned systems permit from the Federal Aviation Administration last year.

The resolution, which was passed the 10-5 by the Associated Students (ASI), is not backed by the force of the law, but expresses the will of the students that their administration should not pursue drones for surveillance purposes.

The Associated Students “does not endorse any plan on the Fresno State campus which entails the use of law enforcement drones on university property and thus supports a ban on UAVs on the campus which are not educational, academic, or research related,” it reads.

Sen. Neil O’Brien, the author of the bill and ASI senator for parking and safety, told Campus Reform his resolution does make an exception for academic drone research and focuses on protecting student’s privacy.

“This is about student privacy,” he said. “[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.”

O’Brien said he hopes the Fresno State Faculty Senate will follow his example with similar legislation.

“ASI has taken an opinion on this so we forward this to the faculty senate and it’s my hope that they…enact policies which reflect the intent of what we did with our resolution,” he said.

Dr. Kriehn, a professor in the Lyles College of Engineering, who spearheads Fresno’s unmanned aerial systems program, stated he does not have an issue with the resolution.

“Sure I spoke the committee that was putting this together to clarify what we were doing, and they chose to put that clarification point in the resolution which I was very thankful for.  I don’t have a problem with it [the resolution]” said Kriehn.

Other Fresno State administrators in the Police Department, and Public Information Office, would not comment on the drones program to Campus Reform.

In a press release on the campus drone program, Public Information Office staffer, Tom Uribes, denied it was ever the school’s intention to implement surveillance drones.

“It is not correct that Fresno State has produced or intends to produce a drone or that the Fresno State Police Department is involved with our research,” he said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @TimPDion