Privacy not always a constitutional right

As students decide what school to go to, looking at the fine print is beneficial

A common misconception has infiltrated private universities across the nation: the right to privacy.

Most adults over the age of 18 assume that they possess the right to privacy — no matter where they are. However, that is not the case at many private universities in which the student actually signs away his or her rights at the ‘door,’ so to speak.

Some students assume their freedoms remain in tact although they have willingly signed them away.

When students first fill out their application to attend Liberty University, as with most private universities, they must sign a page which reads something similar to the following: “I will hereby, upon my acceptance, adhere to all rules and regulations laid forth and outlined by the Liberty Way.”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, you have just signed away your First and Fourth Amendment rights — to some extent.

The First Amendment is the right to freedom of speech. The Fourth reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”

“All societies and organizations have certain guidelines, standards and expectations that govern them in order to maintain an orderly community,” the Liberty Way reads. “A university is no exception, and this Student Honor Code provides Liberty students with a framework that can enhance the college experience for all.”

Yes, all United States citizens over the age of 18 are entitled to their constitutional rights. However, they are also entitled to make the decision to wave those rights at any given time.

They have done so by choosing to attend a private university. However, there have been cases in which students have argued violation of their Fourth Amendment rights on private campuses and have won.

Such is the case in the State of Connecticut v. David Burroughs.

Burroughs attended a prominent private university, was suspected of drug use, searched and found in possession with intent to sell by the court. However, when the case went before the Supreme Court, Burroughs charges were overturned on account of the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and an unlawful search outside of university policy, according to the case filed under the Connecticut Law Journal.

Although students may sign their rights away, they are still entitled to basic constitutional rights that must be handled gently by private universities. Guidelines may be in place by the university, however, if the university in cases of criminal action does not strategically follow them, there may be loopholes for students.

In the end, choosing to attend a private university such as Liberty is up to you. If you are not willing to sign away rights, then go elsewhere.


  • Infinity Lexington

    The overall tone and theme in this article makes attending Liberty sound like a horrible experience, encouraging people to expect negative intrusion.

  • Perhaps. I think some clarification at the beginning of the article might have prevented that, but the story was written for an editorial class where the given subject was student right to privacy at private universities.

    The main intent of the article is to respond to occasional student complaints about parts of the “Liberty Way” code of conduct. A brief explanation of the Liberty Way can be read here (the full text is only available to students).

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