Update #2: Corona and privacy

Today University Student Council Chair Hans Kunstman tells what the USR has been dealing with in recent weeks with regard to the corona crisis. Continue reading below for the update:

The past few weeks have been dominated by the consultation meeting with the Executive Board (CvB) and the discussion on proctoring. On April 20, the USR met online for the first time with the Executive Board and the Works Council (OR). It is not easy to have such a formal meeting with about 50 people. Chairing a five-hour video conference is a real exhaustion, fortunately everything went well and we managed to cover all items on the agenda with a small delay.

During the joint meeting, we discussed the corona crisis extensively. Various council members have asked questions about the consequences of the corona crisis for employees with a flex contract. Among these employees are also many student assistants for whom part of the income is lost. During the meeting, critical questions were asked about the employment practices of Radboud University, when are you a good employer in times of corona? The Executive Board’s response indicated that much depends on what is decided at national level and that the right solution must be examined on a case-by-case basis. The USR remains committed to student employees who have run into problems due to the corona crisis, so let us know if you have any problems and if you work for the university as a student.

In recent weeks, media attention has regularly been paid to administering exams with so-called ‘proctoring software’. Both national media and our own Vox reported on the privacy problems that the use of proctoring creates. Where other universities in the Netherlands already take extensive exams with this controversial software, the Executive Board is considering doing so for a limited part of the exams. This concerns the larger examinations where alternative methods of examination are not workable. Take-home exams, oral exams and other forms are frequently used for smaller courses. For large courses, there is insufficient capacity to take exams via these methods. To prevent students from having to wait until next year (or even longer…), the Executive Board is considering using software that checks via webcam and microphone whether students are not cheating during an exam.

The USR has made critical comments about the use of proctoring. We are not convinced that alternative methods of assessment are equally considered in all study programs. In some cases, for example, teachers / examination committees seem to be thinking about ways to perform their traditional exams digitally. In other courses, we see that innovative methods of examination minimize the risk of fraud in a smart way. For the USR, the importance of privacy and study progress is paramount. Creativity and innovation in education is now really necessary to prevent problems in the short and long term.

We used our legal advisory powers last week to advise the Executive Board (unsolicited) to only use proctoring as a last resort to prevent study delays and only under very strict conditions. Recent media coverage indicates that proctoring is not foolproof when it comes to fraud prevention. This puts the complex discussion about proctoring in a different light. Why would we use “undesirable” methods of examining in the context of combating fraud when it is not at all difficult to defraud with proctoring? The USR remains committed to the privacy and study progress of students.

The USR would like to hear it if you experience problems in your education or in any other way during the corona crisis. Also, let us know if you have any ideas on how things can be better in college during the corona crisis!

On behalf of the University Student Council,

Hans Kunstman, Chair