Webcam requirements are an education paywall

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“You should have thought of that before you became peasants.” -Admin pikrepo

students don’t need another burden as they struggle to pay tuition

No member of the University of Regina campus community found adapting to the COVID-19 shutdown easy. In what felt like a day, our city entirely shut down. All schools moved online, our stores closed and switched to delivery, and life as we knew it, as least for the foreseeable future, had been changed.

I hoped that moving through this pandemic could result in us being more patient and compassionate toward each other. In a lot of ways, that’s exactly what I saw.

I saw friends and loved ones donate money or food to those in need, I saw first-hand the amount of people that were going to donate blood every day, and I saw professors, some of my own, offer to help students with money from their own pockets just because they wanted to help.

I had a lot of hope that, leading into the fall semester, the same compassion was going to be extended. But as restrictions began lessening and doors began opening, I saw less of that. I saw people growing more impatient with others who have been unable to turn out the same amount of work. I’ve seen disappointment at waiting times, and frustration at employees who are only trying to keep everyone safe.

Then, anger over wearing masks grew. People sanitizing before entering stories is no longer as common. The rush to get students back in physical classrooms sparked up, originally with almost no social-distancing or safety regulations.

Now that the fall semester has started, I see it in many of the “requirements” set by individual professors for online teaching. In specific, I see it in the webcam requirements many professors are enforcing.

Professors cannot demand that students turn on their webcams for Zoom classes. If that is a requirement to be set, it feels only fair that the university should supply webcams, or should specify those requirements during class registration.

By demanding that students turn on their webcams for every class, you are anticipating that they have a computer, have a webcam, have a microphone, have a space in their home environment where they are able to attend class, amongst a slew of other factors. Additionally, if a student does not have a private space in their home to attend class, privacy issues come into play.

Expecting that students either have a working webcam or can afford to go out and buy a webcam is not only unfair, but it is ridiculously cruel in a pandemic when many Canadians – including young students – have lost their jobs.

An average webcam can cost anywhere from 30-130 dollars. When we are all still facing a worldwide health crisis; I think it’s fair to assume that not everyone may have that kind of ‘pocket change’ to spend. Not every student has 50 dollars to spend on a webcam. Some students can barely pay for tuition as is.

Global News reported in July that many educational institutions across the country were going forward with a tuition raise despite COVID-19 pandemic’s work-from-home model. The University of Calgary, University of Winnipeg, Saint Mary’s University and McGill University are only a few of the schools listed, all raises varying from 2-3 per cent.

It’s no secret that students are already struggling to pay ever-raising tuition costs. University professors and administrators know this, so how can it possibly be expected that on top of those costs, students purchase a slew of new digital equipment for a change in education they didn’t have a choice or say in?

To expect students to be able to pay these additional prices, and making it a class requirement to do so, isolates hundreds of students from an educational experience that they are paying practically the same price for as compared to an in-person education in a classroom.

Now, I’m not saying I expect the university or professors to pay for student webcams. The more accessible option is to allow students to attend class without a camera. We need to stop continually hiding education behind paywalls. It is unfair, cruel, and morally bankrupt.

Students are paying the same price as an in-person student, and are being told if they are not willing to purchase an additional piece of equipment out of pocket, they cannot participate in the class. Making that a standard for all students during a global quarantine is ridiculous. Plain and simple.

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