By Alex Masse, SFU Student

So, I’m neurodivergent. I won’t get into my whole medical history, but it means I do things differently — especially when I’m stressed. In case you haven’t noticed, this year has been stressful for literally everyone. What with the pandemic and all. 

Sometimes, stress causes me to have flare-ups of certain symptoms. For example, I might struggle with picking at my skin obsessively, which can leave me with blemishes. I also have a lot of fidget toys, which I often end up using so my idle hands are kept busy. 

In the old world, I had the strength to hide these habits, but that’s not the case right now. With all classes being moved to remote and Zoom lectures becoming the norm, it has almost become an expectation that students appear on camera for their classes — whether this is to simulate the sensation of being within each other’s presence in a lecture hall or merely for professors to see their students is unclear. What I am certain of, however, is that I don’t believe the use of webcams in lectures should be necessary and enforced.

I don’t want people to have to see me like this, and in the case of fidget toys, I don’t want to be a distraction to other students — or worse, get scolded for using them. Besides that, the idea of having to look camera-ready is a whole other stressor. That could mean so many different things! And as a woman, it makes me nervous: are we expected to put on makeup for an hours-long lecture in our bedroom? Because a lot of us get judged for showing up barefaced. 

Speaking of bedrooms, it’s also bold to assume everyone has some space where they can appear on-camera confident they won’t be disturbed. And even if they do have their own room, maybe they don’t want a lecture hall’s worth of peers seeing it. People are prone to subconscious biases, and a peek into everyone’s bedrooms is a minefield. Some rooms will be messier. Some will look poorer. Are we expected to put that on display and let assumptions fly? 

When I have a depressive episode, my room falls into disarray. I lack the energy to clean it. I kept going to school during these low points, but if school had included everyone getting a peek into my messy inner life, it might’ve been a different story. 

And truth be told, using a webcam simply won’t be viable for some people. They might have computers with webcams that stopped working ages ago, or internet that struggles when you broadcast yourself. Even I’ve had days where Zoom would lag and glitch until I turned my camera off. 

Professors really shouldn’t be forcing students to turn on their webcams. It’s uncomfortable, it’s pretty much a breach of privacy, and it opens up a whole bunch of potential subconscious biases. I just want to learn without facing potential judgement.