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Greens MP calls on UQ to scrap ProctorU

Greens MP Michael Berkman has called on the University of Queensland to scrap the use of ProctorU exam surveillance software in response to feedback from students in his electorate. 

Member for Maiwar Michael Berkman:

Today I wrote to the University of Queensland asking them to discontinue the use of ProctorU, because it presents a real privacy risk, seems technologically fraught, and is causing serious anxiety for a lot of students, especially if they have a disability or already suffer significant stress around exams. 

 I first wrote to the Vice Chancellor to raise concerns back in April, and they assured me then that not only would ProctorU not negatively impact students’ privacy or rights, but alternative arrangements would be made available for students who didn’t want to use the software. 

“Based on the feedback I’ve received from students using the software or trying to make alternative arrangements, it’s now clear to me that it hasn’t played out this way.

“I was already concerned that ProctorU supervisors are not directly vetted by UQ, that ProctorU records images of student ID cards, location, and biometric data, and that there was no real opportunity for students to opt-out, especially given the announcement was made after the relevant census date.

“Now I’m hearing from students who have experienced myriad technical problems with the software, causing unreasonable stress and delays. 

“Students are telling me they’re having panic attacks, crying through confusing and delayed exams, and opting to defer courses they need for their degree, because of this software. 

“I understand COVID-19 has raised big challenges for our universities, including online learning, lost fees from international students, no access to JobKeeper and now Federal funding cuts.

“I appreciate that UQ staff have been working incredibly hard to adapt - but it’s clear this software is creating unreasonable stress and anxiety for students, and may have significantly affected some students’ performance in exams.”

UQ students reported: 

  • Poor behaviour by examination supervisors, including looking through a student’s private files (such as photographs, mail, and iTunes), being late and not knowing where to find particular keys on a keyboard
  • Exams being delayed by hours, significantly increasing stress for students
  • Loud and distracting noise in the background from supervisors’ microphone 
  • Supervisors disappearing midway through the exam and not responding when students tried to submit
  • Supervisors submitting the exam before a student had finished, forcing them to schedule a re-sitting
  • Inconsistency around required identification, some asking to see a driver license and a passport despite UQ’s assurances that only a student ID would be required 
  • Problems accessing exam adjustments for a disability due to reduced flexibility with ProctorU
  • Supervisors asking to take multiple pictures of female students with and without glasses, while male students with glasses reported this didn’t happen to them

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