2/24/21 PSG Meeting, Voting

Student senators vote on Bill 20-61 to allot $25,000 to bring lawyer Meena Harris to speak at Elliott Hall of Music. 

In a move to stop invasive virtual exam proctoring services, Purdue Student Government passed a bill calling for Purdue to discontinue its contracts with some virtual exam services.

There was also a lack of support in PSG for the J-term proposed for January 2023.

Virtual exam proctoring

Virtual exam proctoring services Examity, Proctorio, ProctorU and Respondus Lockdown Browser would not be offered by Purdue if the bill is put into effect by University Senate. The bill calls on Purdue to use alternative applications like Zoom.

Authors Talha Ahmad and senator Mohamed Bouftas said these proctoring applications have raised student stress, wrongfully flagged students for cheating and pose privacy concerns.

Flagging features on applications, like Examity are easily triggered, so professors are often inaccurately notified of cheating and students are anxious they will be reported even without cheating, Ahmad said.

Some students are also more likely to be flagged than others, Ahmad said, citing research that showed people of certain ethnicities are more likely to be flagged because of the way the software is programmed.

Black and brown students have reported being told by these applications to “shine more light on their faces” and repeatedly being flagged, according to reporting by the MIT Technology Review, Insider and the Guardian.

Unlike video conferencing applications like Zoom that gain access to users’ camera, microphone and screen only with user permission, these services store the user’s data and embed themselves into the operating system of the computer, Bouftas said.

“Examity will shut down any other program running,” Ahmad said. “With that level of access, you’re basically asking people to trust this company (is) not doing anything wrong.”

There have been cases where students found some of their settings changed after an exam, he said. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, an independent nonprofit research center in Washington D.C., has also alleged that each of the companies listed in the bill have engaged in unfair business practices with facial recognition technology.

The bill points out that even with these measures, it is easy for students to cheat. Students can use cheat sheets that are out of the webcam’s view, Ahmad said, and the strict measures could lead to a “technological arms race” fueled by tech-savvy students.

Education senator Samantha Bonnet said her experience teaching has shown her that proctoring services with such tight restrictions are not necessary to stop cheating.

“Without using these services, it is not that difficult to create your time limit, open-ended answers, there’s a million ways to go about it to prevent cheating," she said. "So that’s not a valid reason for them to me to use this in any way, shape, or form.”

PSG opinion on J-term 

Only five of the 26 senators present voted in favor to signal support for the proposed J-term, blocking the bill from passing.

Some of the concerns cited were the lack of information available and uncertainties for faculty pay.

A University Senate Committee headed by Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences Marion Underwood and Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kris Wong Davis is creating a report detailing the logistics of J-term that still hasn’t been released, according to Darr.

Financial aid would be offered and possibly packaged with Spring term aid since financial aid can only be distributed three times a year, she added.

Underwood and Wong Davis led a recorded discussion with Darr in a video posted to the provost website answering questions about the J-term.

Resolution in support of grad and family housing

PSG unanimously passed a joint resolution with Purdue Graduate Student Government asking to delay the decommission of Purdue Village from May to August.

Authors Darr and senator Amanda Shie, both residents of Purdue Village, conducted a survey that found that 61% of residents in Purdue Village live with family members and a majority of those responders live with at least one dependent.

The plans for restructuring the Discovery Park district have been in place since 2002, according to Darr, with a hospital replacing the Dairy Queen near Follett’s Bookstore. Under that plan, the 12 Purdue Village buildings were to be torn down in summer 2022. The sudden change came when hospital administrators requested it be built in the area closest to the airport – moving it from Dairy Queen to Purdue Village.

The concern right now is for the “awkward gap” between when the housing is torn down and replacement graduate and family housing is built, Darr said.

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