Cameras off, please

By Claire Crittendon & Ruth Kehinde – Co-Editor-in-Chief & Digital Editor 

Illustration by Robby Rowe

Living in what seems to be a never-ending pandemic, getting an education revolves around the aspects of using technology, namely, Zoom. While some professors only request students to turn their cameras on, others don’t hesitate to mark blank screens as absent. Turning cameras on should be an option rather than a requirement. College students are able to weigh the pros and cons and should be trusted to decide on their own. 

A student being observant isn’t the only factor that should be taken into account when participating in online classes. Not all students have the same home situation for them to be comfortable showing their faces in the environment they’re in. Professors don’t know what students go through in their personal lives. Privacy is crucial, not all students currently have the privilege to reside on campus, and this view into their home can be invasive and divulgent. 

Secondly, wifi with a bandwidth strong enough to support both the audio and video from Zoom calls is just not something all students have access to. If turning on one’s video causes irreparable damage to their overall audio quality, this clearly, will not help in their class performance. 

Video communication particularly involves individuals to use their eyes. A student’s attentiveness can be taken away due to their curiosity of what other fellow classmates are doing on their screens. Whether they are looking at themselves to see what they look like on camera or pressing the unmute button to answer a question, anxiety is enhanced. On Zoom, there’s a “pin” option where the user is able to pin anyone’s video. This gives the students the access to be focused on everything else but the curriculum. When the camera is off, student’s wouldn’t feel as if all eyes are on them. This would result in a smoother process of learning without the unnecessary worrying of the attention on them. 

Lastly, international students are calling into classes in the middle of the night in their time zones. How enthusiastic would you be to turn on your camera for your weekly 3 a.m. lecture? Taking these factors into account includes ensuring that the professor is aware of them to create a safe learning environment. 

Remote learning should aim to not only have students learn but not add any stress in doing so. Professors should include student’s opinions on the steps of what works for them to get through the class, not just use their own judgement to decide. Simply put, commanding students to turn their cameras on, and deducting their grade as a result blatantly ignores the equity issues at hand, and is incredibly insensitive to students who may already be struggling in such a difficult present.

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