By Jess Taylor
DAVIS – Controversy has surrounded the use of proctoring during exams as online school continues. ASUCD Senate Resolution asks UC Davis to acknowledge and consider the research presented, which clearly shows how proctored examination disproportionately affects minority students while being intrusive on users’ personal information.
A study consisting of 83 UC Davis students conducted by the Academic Affairs Commission reveals that 88 percent have had proctored examinations since the start of the pandemic.
During fall and winter quarters, 36.5 percent of the case study volunteers had lockdown browser modes of proctoring, 70.3 percent had monitored cameras and 31.35 percent had proctoring that scanned surrounding areas in addition to being motion censored.
Many students have returned home during the pandemic. Many exams are at synchronous times, which adversely impacts students located in different time zones.
The UC Davis administration has recognized that proctoring can project negative effects and has encouraged faculty to use substitute methods, stating, “alternative to traditionally-proctored midterms and final exams are more likely to accurately measure student mastery of concepts, provide valuable feedback to students at a distance, and discourage academic dishonesty.”
One of the many poor features of proctoring service is their facial recognition and detection software. They use AI technology that struggles to recognize people with darker skin unless they increase their room’s brightness. Even then, it still will not recognize these individuals and can flag them for cheating or locks them out from taking the test at all.
MIT and Stanford University examined the error rate of race and gender with remote online proctoring to find that Black, Indigenous and people of color are 585 times more likely to be falsely accused of cheating compared to white students.
Moreover, the same study showed error-rates in determining gender for light-skinned men where the average was a minimum of 0.8 percent while increasing to 20.8 percent, 34.5 percent, 34.7 percent and 46.8 percent for darker-skinned women.
Many proctoring companies that use AI have problems detecting and identifying people of color, women and trans and non-binary individuals.
Another downfall is students living in lower-income households may lack a dependable or steady internet connection, making proctoring worse and unfair to them.
As for non-binary or trans individuals, they are at high risk of failing. AI requires students to have their gender verified. If the person’s identification is different from what the AI determines as a given gender, they can get locked out from testing and can be accused of cheating.
The accumulation of these issues puts all of these individuals at greater risk of losing financial aid, scholarships, failure in classes and possible expulsion because of proctored exams.
Those with disabilities that require a caregiver or support can fail due to movement, speech and cognitive processing; students with ADHD and other neurodivergent disabilities have greater chances of being flagged for these reasons. Assistive technology, like speech-to-text or touch-typing mode, can also flag students. Equally, persons with IBD and Crohn’s disease can be flagged for using the restroom too often.
Some companies require students to lift their computers to show their work area, deeming impossible for students with physical limitations.
An uncomfortable problem encountered with proctoring services is students are forced to give up their privacy rights, provoking vulnerability of their data being shared or sold. Businesses like Examity can hold the data they collect during the exam and sell the information.
These companies are exceedingly intrusive towards data, collecting records of personal surroundings, license and identification information and access to students’ computers. Likewise, proctoring poses a threat to take bank account information and personal pictures, as these companies have access to browsers and computers.
To make matters more uncomfortable, some professors require recordings of their students while taking the tests, allowing professors the opportunity to save these recordings to their computers; they can also access the student’s location based on the IP addresses.
Universities across the country have asked their schools to end contracts with proctored exam companies. UC Santa Barbara’s faculty urges Chancellor Yang to consider alternatives because of the AI’s nature to discriminate and the invasiveness of these softwares.
The Electric Frontier Foundation wrote a letter to the California Supreme Court on behalf of students taking the California State Bar to have an option to opt-out of the sale of their data and to delete it.
ASUCD is vocal that proctoring systems will hurt most students at the university, especially those in marginalized communities.
The students surveyed expressed “concerns about proctored exams which typically fell under categories of having a lack of sufficient testing environments, feeling increased anxiety and anxiety-related episodes because of proctored exams, and feeling discomfort in regards to privacy with proctored exams.”
The student body of UCD is now urging the university faculty to use alternatives to proctored exams “due to their discriminatory, ableist, and intrusive nature, and their detrimental impacts on several communities.”
If faculty choose to continue with proctoring exams, ASUCD requests them to review alternative options of examinations and publicly acknowledge the data as addressed above.
Furthermore, they call for the administration to disband their contracts with any proctoring companies to avoid possible legal consequences as other schools have faced.
The benefits of this resolution will positively impact those that are most vulnerable towards the discrimination of proctoring services and holds the potential to increase performance as students take exams.
Jess Taylor is in her senior year at UC Davis from a small town called Wheatland. She is finishing her studies in English and Human Rights.
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: