Towards the end of September, CUNY students took part in a petition protesting CUNY’s potential implementation of online proctoring software. The petition on change.org, which has over 28,000 signatures so far, requested that CUNY find alternatives to exam monitoring through the software service ProctorTrack, under the assertion that the programs in question would infringe on student privacy.
Aharon Grama, BC’s USG Chief of Staff and a Delegate of USS, started the petition after several students reported over social media that they were being asked by professors to purchase the software, which monitors students’ eye movements, audio environment, video feed from webcams, the names of applications running on computers, and linked hardware devices. The software does not monitor browsing history or read personal files. Grama’s petition quickly gained traction, gaining support from CUNY students across campuses.
“It went kind of viral, and that’s when we got the response from CUNY,” said Grama.
On September 1, CUNY updated its website regarding online proctoring to include a statement from the Office of Legal Affairs.
“The Office of Legal Affairs (OGC) has reviewed the Terms and Conditions of several online testing application services and it is OGC’s position that faculty cannot compel students to accept the corresponding tools ‘Terms and Conditions,’” the note read.
In other words, even if the software is installed and publicized on an instructor’s syllabus, students may opt out of being proctored.
“I’m satisfied that at least that was clarified,” Grama said of the Office’s conclusion. “I still feel like they shouldn’t require students to opt out — they should more ask students to opt in to something like this.”
CUNY’s webpage on Academic Continuity to Campuses explains that “there are several courses across the university, including in specialized and licensure programs, that rely on traditional testing approaches and need an online proctoring solution. To serve these courses, the taskforce [on remote proctoring solutions] identified some commercial tools that the University has since been pursuing for possible procurement and implementation.”
“As far as I know, it hasn’t become available for use,” said BC Computer Science Professor Ari Mermelstein, who had listed the software on his syllabus for potential use.
CUNY’s page currently reads that “more information will be forthcoming,” but according to a memo sent to the Counsel of Presidents, CUNY has already procured Proctortrack. The memo reads that the university is “working hard to have this solution enabled and accessible for students and faculty by mid to late October.”
According to Media Relations Manager Rich Pietras, Brooklyn College is not using the software.
In addition to recognizing students’ rights not to participate in the proctoring, CUNY’s webpage acknowledges that students may not be required to turn on cameras during tests or during classes in remote meetings.