Stop online proctoring with Respondus Monitor at Bocconi University

Stop online proctoring with Respondus Monitor at Bocconi University

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Recently Bocconi informed its students that it would be using Respondus Monitor to proctor exams online. This software uses multiple aspects of extremely sensitive data, including:

  • requiring students to show the University their entire room on camera
  • recording students' showing their university ID cards, or for those that don't have one with them, their government ID and storing this data on their servers
  • reportedly scanning our computers’ registries (part of Windows that contains highly sensitive data such as which programs we have installed)
  • tracking our eye movements to an extent that a professor has had to warn his students that, during an exam, “you cannot look away from the screen. Not even for a second”

Furthermore, the Respondus Student Privacy Policy grants them permission to share the raw footage (with any overly identifying features, such as names, censored) with third party researchers, as well as giving them permission to retain our data for up to five years.  

As students in international courses at this university, we are extremely disappointed with this decision. Bocconi has long advertised itself as a leading institution of higher education, lauding its “Top 10 ranking”, and promoting itself as a truly international, modern, and progressive university, describing itself as a university that has “stood for liberalism, pluralism, and social and economic progress”, as well as one that has “promoted and practiced equality of opportunity among its many generations of students”. Bocconi flaunts its QS ranking on almost every piece of advertising material that it has have ever printed, trying to show that it is in the top tier of world universities. Despite this, it is the only undergraduate university among the Top 15 in the QS Business ranking that is neither offering pass/fail (or optional) exams or open-book/take-home exams, and insist on the use of invasive software to monitor our exams. Software that comes with many issues, both ethical and technical.

Students and teachers globally have denounced this software as an invasion of students’ privacy. At the time of writing, there are approximately 40 petitions against online proctoring software on change.org, some of them with close to 5000 signatures. A professor at Harvard has said that “I just didn’t think it was appropriate to sort of introduce that level of intrusion of technological intrusion into the test taking process”, and multiple teachers’ unions have written to their universities in complaint against this invasion of their students’ privacy. Some universities have already decided to reverse their decision to use this invasive software after similar student initiatives.

A few days ago the University posted a privacy policy on its website for students to sign, forbidding access to the main Student Portal for those that did not sign it, requesting that students consent to the processing of our biometrical data so that they may administer exams online, going so far as to state that “Any refusal to give consent for the processing of biometric data for the purposes referred to in point 3 lett. b will make impossible to take the exam online. You can therefore take the exam only live, in the real and non-virtual presence of the reference lecturer, at the University premises”, pressuring students into accepting this intrusion into their private lives, and going so far as to prevent access to the web-page for anybody that doesn't sign the agreement.  The privacy policy states "data will be kept for a further period in case there is a need to manage any disputes or cases", without specifying a period. Despite having sent emails to the Bocconi Data Protection Office requesting clarification on these, and other privacy-law related matters, we have not received any response. 

The Italian version of the University’s website goes so far as to state that it is “constantly in dialogue with the outside world”, yet despite the University having informed us that all exams would take place exclusively online well over a month and a half ago, to this day many courses have failed to inform us as to the format of our exams, leaving us students completely in the dark, and the University seems to be in constant denial about the current situation, refusing to make any changes other than the bare minimum.

The administration has not only completely ignored and disrespected the deadline that they themselves set of Easter (communicated to the student representatives in a meeting with Professor Verona in late March), but also a further deadline of 28 April set by the student representatives. We find this behaviour completely unacceptable and unprofessional, as well as something that truly highlights the University’s contempt for its students. There remains only thing that we can commend Bocconi on: their chutzpah. Despite this shambolic response they themselves have the audacity to say that they are responding with “our usual professionalism”, and the rector has on multiple occasions laughed at students’ complaints during interviews instead of addressing them.

We are thus calling on the University to provide an alternative form of assessment, such as:

  • take-home assignments,
  • open-book exams, or 
  • online exams without invasive proctoring software

The University has long hidden behind the excuse that alternative solutions are not permitted by Italian law, while other Italian universities have been using these alternatives. The only reason that the University has given for not having pass/fail exams is a simple decree issued by the Ministry for Education, which the University – to our knowledge – has not even tried to contact to see if it would be possible to change this rule: something that the Ministry could easily do if prompted. There are multiple practical solutions to this issue that the University has refused to even consider. Through our research we have failed to find another university in Italy that is insisting on its students using any form of this invasive proctoring software, including some of Italy's largest universities like Università La Sapienza in Rome, also one of the largest universities in Europe, and one of Bocconi's main rivals Università Cattolica in Milan. 

 

For inquiries please contact petition@donatbolton.com