ASUCD Urges Faculty and Academic Senate to End Use of Proctored Exam Services During Remote Learning

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Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Two weeks ago, UC Davis Chancellor May announced that remote learning will be extended until January 28 as the campus deals with the surge of cases from Omicron.  As such, the extension will now take students into the first round of midterms in remote format, which will lead professors to consider using proctored exam services.

Last Thursday, ASUCD Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the Academic Senate and all UC Davis faculty members to end the use of proctored exam services during the extended remote learning periods of Winter Quarter 2022.

They further called on “administrators to end all contracts with proctored exam companies, following the precedent of several nationally recognized universities, and requests that faculty be mandated to review alternative modes of examination through resources readily available at the UC Davis Keep Teaching website.”

In their resolution they note that “UC Davis administration has expressed previously the harms of proctored exams and encourages faculty to use alternative practices.”

The administration has stated that “alternatives to traditionally-proctored midterm 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.”

In May 2020, Academic Senate leaders and the Vice Provost wrote that they “[d]iscourage the use of holding proctored exams at a single, set time.”

Among the concerns expressed by the Academic Senate and Vice Provost, “Many of our students do not have access to reliable internet, functional computer cameras and microphones, or dependable access to a quiet, private space. Moreover, many students currently live in other time zones, including locations of California, and the United States.”

Most of these proctoring services use facial recognition software or human proctors to confirm an individual’s identity, and the students worry that “the utilization of facial recognition has been found to be discriminatory and is disadvantageous towards BIPOC groups.”

They explained “if the software cannot successfully confirm the identity of the test taker they will be unable to access and exam and shall automatically fail the exam.”

Thus, “facial recognition software detections are proven to be unreliable for identifying Black, East and South Asian, Central Americans, as well as transgender and non-binary indivduals.”  Furthermore, “the False Match Rate (FMR) varies between demographic groups with low FMR observed in Eastern European populations and higher in East Asian populations for the majority of services studied.”

In addition, “low image quality causes generally more false negative results in people born in Africa and the Caribbean,” and “numerous reports and complaints have been filed claiming that the facial recognition software had flagged them because the system could not recognize their darker skin.”

On occasion the software may also ask to shine more light on the test taker’s face, the students pointed out, and “students who do not hold appropriate documentation of their identify, such as undocumented students, may also lead to access to the examination being revoked.”

Thus, “this also follows suit as undocumented students are at higher risks of being prosecuted by immigration authorities as immigration authorities may report undocumented students if they believe that students’ documentation is not sufficient enough.”

One example cited is the case of Shamia Dallali, a Muslim undergrad student.  She was “forced to abandon her examination and receive an automatic fail for refusing to remove her hijab, which the service believed she was hiding cheating resources under.”

The use of these proctoring services also puts people from a lower socio-economic background at a significant disadvantage, as the proctored exams require test takers to be in a private room and do not allow any other individuals in the testing space during the examination period.

“(S)tudents who might share a room or do not have access to a private room may be flagged by the software if they see another individual or if there is an excessive amount of noise, they write.  “Proctored exams require video surveillance at all times, putting test takers that cannot afford quality wifi at risk of being flagged by the proctor or experiencing troubles during the exam that may negatively impact their results.”

A letter written in response to proctored examinations by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association (OCUFA), noted that “the need for high-speed internet and newer computer technology increases student stress and anxiety, and leaves students with the inability to afford the best connection in the dark.”

ASUCD commends “professors, lecturers, and TAs who have adopted alternative assessment methods as suggested by the University.”

ASUCD urges “faculty intending to utilize online proctored exams to adopt alternative practices to assess students including but not limited to open book exams, research papers, and end of term projects due to the discriminatory, ableist, and intrusive nature of proctored exams and their detrimental impacts on several communities.”

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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5 thoughts on “ASUCD Urges Faculty and Academic Senate to End Use of Proctored Exam Services During Remote Learning”

  1. Keith Olson

    ASUCD urges “faculty intending to utilize online proctored exams to adopt alternative practices to assess students including but not limited to open book exams

    How sweet!

    1. Bill Marshall

      You know not of which you speak…

      Many educational and professional exams are ‘open book’… constructed to be so… if you don’t have your ‘fecal matter’ together, you’ll fail… some of those exams (open book) have “pass rates” below 20%.

      But, we all know you’re just being you.

  2. Alan Miller

    Moreover, many students currently live in other time zones, including locations of California . . .

    Yeah, that pesky Modoc Standard Time really throws people.

    They explained “if the software cannot successfully confirm the identity of the test taker they will be unable to access and exam and shall automatically fail the exam.”

    That seems like a problem.  Can they do a thumbprint-scan as an alternative?

    “students who do not hold appropriate documentation of their identify, such as undocumented students, may also lead to access to the examination being revoked.”

    If they are going to UCD, they are documented with the University.  Students from all over the world attend UCD.  This should be solvable by having the proper digital information on file for each student and interface that with exam software.  I realize that may be complex, but the whole system sounds complex.

    She was “forced to abandon her examination and receive an automatic fail for refusing to remove her hijab, which the service believed she was hiding cheating resources under.”

    Any student can easily cheat in the virtual environment.  If they are smart enough to attend college, they are more than smart enough not to get caught cheating remotely.  Who, in today’s political environment, would accuse someone of hiding answers in a hijab?  Sounds like career suicide – or did a computer do it?

    The use of these proctoring services also puts people from a lower socio-economic background at a significant disadvantage, as the proctored exams require test takers to be in a private room and do not allow any other individuals in the testing space during the examination period.

    A private room?  That’s pretty much impossible for a lot of people, whatever their socio-economic background.  We didn’t pick our living situations or design our living spaces for this virtual world.  This could be an impossible ask for many.

    “Proctored exams require video surveillance at all times, putting test takers that cannot afford quality wifi at risk of being flagged by the proctor or experiencing troubles during the exam that may negatively impact their results.”

    Again, we didn’t necessary pick our living space pre-pandemic on the wifi signal.  I’ve seen important people drop from high-level meetings during a presentation at work – because they are working at home and live in a sücky wifi area.  How can a signal be guaranteed reliable for a whole exam?  It can’t.

    low image quality causes generally more false negative results in people born in Africa and the Caribbean . . .  the system could not recognize their darker skin.

    This does not surprise me; it’s just ‘science’.  Don’t iPhones do an almost perfect job of facial recognition?  Could students having an issue with that — due to skin tone and/or cam quality — be issued an iPhone for their stay at UCD that could tie into the exam system?

    Also, after reading the entire article I’m still not sure what a ‘proctored’ exam is.  Assuming it has a similar root to a particular medical specialty doesn’t give me a clue, unless it’s because the implication is that students are being s*at upon.

    But seriously, does that just mean the exam is online and administered by some sort of robotic software?  It’s not a term I ran across at UCD forty years ago.  Nor did I run across any cell phones, nor the Death Star.

    Interesting article.

    1. Bill Marshall

      In addition, have been subject to ‘proctored’ exams… SAT, NM exams in HS; many more in college; some in professional registration…

      Those who don’t cheat, have ‘no worries’… those that do, generally ‘scrub out’ in subsequent endeavors, and/or “the real world”…

      “open book” exams, are not cheating (except perhaps in the ‘liberal arts’)… IF the exams are properly structured… testing the understanding/application of knowledge, vs. ‘rote

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