Editorial: Do not require students to keep their cameras on

The Runner Editorial Board

As everyone adjusts to the digital modalities of learning, the question of professors requiring cameras to be on during lectures has resurfaced.

The lives of students have been entirely shifted. Many have become babysitters, full-time employees, and even stay at home parents.

Chaos has become the standard for each and every one of us.

Requiring students to remain on camera throughout virtual instruction only ensures that students cannot manage that chaos to the best of their ability. It is restrictive and unethical.

While some faculty may find it difficult to instruct students without seeing their faces the entire time, the privacy and safety of students are paramount.

Though Zoom offers the ability to change the background, which can preserve some semblance of privacy, this tool is only available to those with the most up to date technology. The demand to make students buy or obtain a webcam or their grades may suffer is rooted in classism.

CSU Bakersfield students did not willingly sign up for virtual classes. They signed up for in-person classes so they can access the necessary technology that is provided on campus.

The need to switch to fully online, due to an unforeseen pandemic, widens the equity gap. Professors should take financial strain into account when updating their policies within their syllabi.

Though professors are also missing the normalcy of seeing students’ faces every class meeting prior to the pandemic, that form of communication may no longer be doable.

With the pandemic affecting students and their families in myriad ways, it can become almost impossible for students to always have their cameras on.

CSUB has many students who are parents. Those students are likely caring for their children and ensuring their children attend their own virtual classes. These students might need to leave the room periodically to attend to their children’s needs.

Some professors may argue that it is not their responsibility to cater to their students’ personal lives. But this stance ignores that in many ways, students and faculty are blameless in this scenario. Neither students nor faculty chose to move to online learning. Accommodations must be made.

Adding to the existing chaos is the battle between our devices and our WIFI. The ability to maintain a stable internet connection is an uncommon privilege. A simple way to reduce the use of bandwidth and preserve your connection during a lecture is to turn your camera off.

Professors who require camera access are in turn ensuring that the students’ connection to the lecture is unstable.
In the end, this can only negatively affect students’ grades.

Even though the majority of us, faculty and staff included, miss the normalcy and the ability to go to campus and sit in our classrooms, it is a goal we are unable to achieve.

The reality of our lives has shifted drastically. Life seems heavier. Now is not the time to add to the heaviness of our lives.

Requiring students to have their cameras on during lectures should be put onto the back burner, if not for the comfort of the students but for the maintenance of our campus community at large.