Kent State changes remote testing policy in response to federal ruling

Sophie Young, Reporter

Kent State University announced Thursday in an email to professors that room scan features in remote proctoring software are disabled – almost three weeks after a Cleveland State student sued for invasion of privacy and won.

Aaron Ogletree’s chemistry test required a room scan to ensure he was alone in a quiet environment. He was living at home with family during spring 2021, a semester mostly online for Cleveland State. The university required daily health checks for in-person testing, which Ogletree claimed he couldn’t pass.

This left him with one choice: take the test in his bedroom littered with confidential tax documents.

Ogletree asked if he could refuse the room scan, an unprecedented question for proctors. With no clear policy on how to proceed, the proctor required him to record a short video of his surroundings.

Ogletree sued his university – and won.

A federal judge ruled on Aug. 22 that room scans violated students’ fourth amendment right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Melody Tankersley, Kent State senior vice president and provost, emailed professors Thursday to update Kent State’s policy on room scans. Students have received no news from the university.

“Room scan functionality for Proctorio and ProctorU has been disabled and will no longer be accessible. Additionally, the ‘Environmental Check’ function within the Respondus Monitor software is no longer permitted,” Tankersley wrote.

Almost three weeks after the ruling, this is the first professors have heard from the university.

Kent State professor Xiaozhen Mou uses Proctorio in her online microbiology class offered during the summer. As of Wednesday, she had received no communication from the university addressing the federal decision.

The lawsuit documented one detail affecting Federal Judge J. Philip Calabrese’s decision: Ogletree’s room scan was visible to Ogletree’s professor and fellow students.

“I assume that they wouldn’t. I’ve never questioned that,” Mou said, unsure if Kent State students can also access classmates’ scans.

Mou designed her online summer course with the help of a specialist in distance learning. She chose to use Proctorio, the recommended tool.

“I probably should have done my own, you know, personal investigation,” Mou said. “But I basically just trust the judgment of the university. I think, probably, they have done a lot of work to narrow down to the Lockdown Browser and Proctorio.”

In the Spring 2021 semester, 62 percent of students on the Kent Campus took at least one online course.

For online exams, Kent State uses Proctorio and Respondus Lockdown Browser. Both of which previously required room scans, which Cleveland State claimed was “industry standard” in an attempt to argue its case.

“I used it, and it always says in the rules to be alone in a quiet room. I was never alone. My roommate was there once,” said Emily Kubic, sophomore exercise science major at Kent State who used Proctorio for her chemistry class. “I just don’t focus as much when I’m being watched.”

Sophie Young is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]