Marlboro can’t just sit quietly on its peaceful little hill and let the world of international controversy sweep by. I mean, if the U.S. is being charged of war crimes for using drones in Pakistan, and people of Afghanistan live in terror from the daily presence of spy drones, and citizens of Deer Trail, Colorado, are voting on a hunting license for drones, then Marlboro wants to be right there in the thick of it, probing the legal and ethical limitations of this new technology. I’m talking about the testing of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) right here on picturesque Potash Hill. On a bright, sunny day recently, Caleb Clark of the educational technology master’s program and Tobias Gelston of registrar fame sent a sporty quad-copter unit mounted with a camera aloft, well, most of the time.
Their maiden test voyage not only captured beautiful aerial footage of one of the prettiest campuses this side of the hanging gardens of Babylon, but it also raised some interesting questions about drone ethics. Sure, a similar UAV could be used to follow Wendell-Judd Cup racers across South Pond, or to monitor habitat use by deer on the college’s 300 acres of woods. But could drones also be used to see if students are really reading Proust, as assigned, instead of trolling through their favorite Instagram posts, or to discover if a certain faculty member is using more than their share of 100 percent Vermont maple syrup? Will community members live in constant fear of their privacy being invaded, just when they fall inelegantly on the ice, or scratch themselves in an uncouth fashion, or make a bum call on a four square play? There is no telling where this will lead, but—you know how we love a debate, up here on the frozen hill—I have no doubt that hunting licenses will at least be mentioned.