Editor’s note: Max Rubin, a source for this article, is a staff columnist for The Eagle. He was not involved in its reporting, writing or editing.
Three months after Student Government President Eric Brock first called on AU to implement a stricter camera policy, professors independently still decide whether students may have their cameras off for online classes.
In December, Brock sent out an email to the student body, reminding them to report professors who require cameras to be on for attendance and participation. He followed this up with a separate email on Feb. 6 giving clarifications on the University’s current policy.
“The University — specifically the Provost’s office — crafted language on cameras as ‘recommendations,’ rather than actually taking action on the issue,” Brock said in the February email. “The University did not communicate this issue to students.”
He criticized the provost and Faculty Senate for failing to adopt a formal camera policy that would address professors mandating camera use during class instruction.
“We attempted all of last semester to convince the administration that this was an issue the students were facing,” Brock told The Eagle. “This was the result of the University pandering to the faculty to the point that it jeopardized students’ grades and well-being.”
Acting Provost Peter Starr responded to Brock’s statement in an email to the AU faculty listing a variety of goals that the University “strongly urges” the faculty to embrace. He declined to comment further on the specifics of Brock’s complaints.
Included in the list of goals was a reminder to be mindful of the extenuating circumstances that students face, as well as the stress that the use of technology such as lock-down browsers can pose.
Starr offered several alternatives, including verbal participation and a shift to assignments that focus on the student’s ability to apply what they have learned, instead of what they have memorized.
Faculty Senate Chair John Heywood said that recommendations could be quickly implemented, whereas a formal policy would require a vote, and more delay.
“The equity and privacy reasons students have about turning on their cameras are valid, and we respect them,” Heywood said. “At the same time, the faculty are concerned that the quality of teaching diminishes when speaking to blank screens.”
Campus-at-large Senator Max Rubin said that after Starr’s faculty email, students have told him that professors have become more lenient about their class camera policy.
However, many students have still expressed their concerns over professors mandating camera use during class, with some saying faculty have punished students who choose not to turn it on.
“Last semester, one of my professors docked points off of our overall participation grade if we turned our camera off at any point,” said School of Public Affairs sophomore Helena Chaves.
Sophomore Thrisha Mohan agreed with Chaves. She said many of her professors have strongly recommended that students keep their cameras on, implying that students who do so may have a leg up in class.
“I think the requirements of camera use really strains students in classes,” Mohan said. “I have a day where I am in class for seven to eight hours with all my [professors] highly suggesting that cameras stay on.”
Olivia Higgins contributed reporting to this article.