An Issue Out Of The Syllabus
As the world faced a cultural paradigm shift from physical setups to everything happening over digital real estate, education was forced to do the same. As soon as the lockdown was announced, online education became a necessity rather than a choice, and it’s now at a point where it’s more or less default. With online education, hand in hand came online exams. Online exams had been a long living concept, but when they turned to exams from home, we had a new variable to deal with called supervision. Since time immemorial, students have always found ways to cheat during exams, online or offline. Remote examinations are much easier to cheat in the traditional sense. To tackle this, online video proctoring was introduced. On a fundamental level, you can see the problem of privacy invasion lying here. Fortunately, the students themselves realised this because most of us have been a part of the internet growing up hence know how important privacy is. But unfortunately, most of the concerns were brushed off as just college students being rebellious. So even students had no other option but to succumb to the rules of their institution.
Now, when exams came knocking on our doors, we welcomed them knowing that like usual, they’ll have the tea of anxiety and fritters of stress. Little we knew they planned on bringing with them, the gift of harassment. Mercer Mettl is an online platform which offers exam portals and remote proctoring services. The university chose to conduct the Term End Examinations. Then came the uninvited problem. During, and after the examination, the remote “proctors”, who were allegedly hired for Rs. 600/- day by Mettl decided to send creepy messages to students. These messages include the likes of asking them to lower their cameras, their Instagram IDs, amongst many other inappropriate requests. Most of the time, this happened during the examination, when the student is supposed to be at their most peaceful and focused state of mind. Again, fundamentally it’s the invasion of our personal space without knowing the identity of the person doing it. Then, it takes a toll on our mental health during and after the examination because most of the messages fall straight under harassment! In a time like this, when the internet is as real as it gets, harassment is as serious on the internet as it is in real life and that too during exams. During a semester in which most of the students couldn’t obtain a chunk of what they’re taught, thanks to online classes, examinations on the very syllabus came as a burden onto the shoulders of the students.
This incident also slapped the reality of gender inequality in our faces. In a country which likes to believe that sexual harassment is “justified” because it was provocated, its society will remain silent when an incident like this takes place where there was no sexual provocation. The sole reason for harassment cases like these is the mentality of some men who think that they have control over the women they’re interacting with.
Here’s what you can do if you ever find yourself a situation like this. The first and immediate action should be collecting all the evidence you can. It could be photos, videos, or any other form of media which verifies the crime. Next, you identify the convict. There have been instances when the proctors have tried to contact students through other platforms i.e., Whatsapp, Instagram, etc. You can get a name and a face from these apps most of the time. The most favourable condition is to have both of them, but even if they’re not present, you can still file a complaint and let the authorities investigate.
Now, this isn’t a university problem, it is the platform that had the responsibility of conducting background checks on every person that they were gonna share our information with. Also, most of the proctors in the exams are males, and that is another problem. As the participation of women in the workforce decreases over the years, we immediately need more of them, especially in the information and technology sector. If there were an equal, or at least comparable number of male and female proctors, cases like these would fall by half, and that’s just probability. We need to realise that it’s time we pass the mic to women and let social change shine. That’s the sole cure to a regressive and patriarchal society, and although it will be a slow process, it is important that we start somewhere.
In conclusion, I believe that the immediate response should be punishing the convicts, the platform learning from its mistakes, and institutes paying more attention to what the student fraternity has to say, as most of us as adults are mature enough to spot the warning signs, especially in the digital age.