Following a CHEM 1AA3 midterm, students have expressed privacy and security-related concerns use of Respondus Lockdown Browser

C/O Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities have had to adapt to online learning for the 2020-2021 school year. As a result, professors have faced unique challenges with respect to teaching and assessing students virtually. 

One such challenge is ensuring academic integrity, which can be difficult in an online context because professors cannot monitor the test-taking process as easily. In response to this difficulty, many universities have relied on proctoring software to prevent cheating. At McMaster University, the most commonly used proctoring software is Respondus Lockdown Browser

Though potentially valuable from an academic integrity standpoint, many people have raised privacy and security-related concerns about requiring students to download proctoring software. McMaster students appear to share these concerns, as many have voiced them on Reddit over the past few months.

Concerns about proctoring software have recently received a lot of attention from students, following the CHEM 1AA3 midterm on Feb. 6, 2021. The Silhouette discussed the CHEM 1AA3 midterm and the potential problems surrounding proctoring software with a student, who has been granted anonymity to ensure that they do not receive academic backlash for coming forward.

Concerns about proctoring software have recently received a lot of attention from students, following the CHEM 1AA3 midterm on Feb. 6, 2021.

This student reported that their laptop shut down directly after the CHEM 1AA3 midterm. They also said that they have been in contact with numerous other students who faced technical difficulties during and following the midterm, including computer lags, computer shutdowns, emails about compromised passwords and multiple contact attempts from unknown numbers.

The student added that, of the students who experienced technical difficulties of some kind, 16 have reached out to the chemistry department. 

The student said that as the chemistry department was unable to solve the problem at all, their only response was telling students to report it to Avenue Support or to the Respondus company.

“It should have been [the chemistry department] taking responsibility,” the student added.

“It should have been [the chemistry department] taking responsibility,” the student added.

Jay Robb, manager of communications for the faculty of science, stated that the chemistry department took student concerns seriously.

“[The chemistry department] encouraged the students to reach out on technical issues and get answers around that,” Robb said.

According to Robb, the chemistry department plans to continue using Respondus Lockdown Browser and to give students an additional 30 minutes on exams, to account for any technical difficulties that might arise. Robb explained the chemistry department’s reasons for using proctoring software.

“We need to maintain the academic integrity and protect the value of every student’s credit,” Robb said.

CHEM 1AA3 students are not the only ones to have raised concerns about McMaster’s use of proctoring software over the past month. On Feb. 22, 2021, the Student Representative Assembly put out a statement in support of students’ concerns about McMaster’s use of Respondus Lockdown Browser.

In their statement, the Student Representative Assembly called on McMaster to respond to student concerns about privacy and security and to provide all students with alternative methods of assessment if they do not consent to the use of Respondus Lockdown Browser.

Christy Au-Yeung, a co-leader of the SRA’s science caucus, explained that it was a challenge to find information regarding the protection of student privacy on Respondus.

“The onus is on the university to do a better job of informing students [about Respondus] and giving them the option to protect their privacy,” said Simranjeet Singh, co-leader of the SRA’s science caucus.

According to Au-Yeung, the experiences that students had with the CHEM 1AA3 midterm were an integral factor in the SRA’s decision to release a statement.

“There were issues in that test, some caused by Respondus and some not, which caused the unfortunate scenario and motivated us to act,” Singh said.

“There were issues in that test, some caused by Respondus and some not, which caused the unfortunate scenario and motivated us to act.”

Simranjeet Singh

Singh noted that some unrelated technological issues faced by individual students may have been grouped together with concerns more directly related to Respondus.

However, he added, the additional pressure of Respondus on students’ internet may have been a factor, even for students who experienced difficulties unrelated to Respondus.

Au-Yeung and Singh both emphasized that the SRA wants student perspectives to be heard.

“Obviously [McMaster] can’t change what’s in the past, but moving forward [we hope that] students continue to be consulted,” Au-Yeung said.

Many of us don’t need to be reminded that there’s only a few days left before exam season starts, but we might need a reminder to make time for a nice home cooked meal. It’s easy to turn to buying lunch or dinner when you’re tight on time during these next few weeks, but there are ways to make cooking an enjoyable experience while relieving some stress too.

The Sil staff have compiled their favourite recipes that are easy to make, especially when you’re short on time. We encourage you to try them out, change up the ingredients and most importantly, take the time to take care of yourself this season.


Hands-off tomato sauce

Shared by Sasha Dhesi (Managing Editor)

Pasta is a staple batch recipe since it’s fairly easy, delicious and lasts the whole work week. While most people don’t have time to make homemade pasta, students don’t have to rely on jarred sauces and compromise their time. 

Making a sauce at home can seem challenging, but simple recipes like this one are great for students low on time and on a budget.

I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit’s Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce. I replaced a few of the more expensive ingredients with more accessible, easier kept items that make more sense for students to keep around in the house. The recipe should make about four servings and take about 40 minutes, but only 20 of those minutes are active! This is a great recipe to make while studying at home — just pop the sauce into the oven and you’ll have a great sauce in no time!





    1. Crush the garlic cloves, removing their skin. Cut the butter into small cubes. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
    2. Pour the can of tomatoes into a rectangular baking dish. With your hands, gently crush the tomatoes. Add garlic and butter cubes to baking dish alongside tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. roast for 20 minutes.
    3. Take the baking dish out of the oven and add the fish sauce and chili paste to the dish. If you don’t like heat, don’t add the chili paste! If you like it spicy, feel free to add more. Return dish to oven for another 20 minutes.
    4. While the sauce roasts for another 20 minutes, begin cooking the pasta. Boil four to five quarts of water, adding salt when the water starts to release steam. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the pasta’s instructions. Reserve one cup of pasta water, and drain the pasta.
    5. Once the sauce is done roasting, remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly. Using a fork or masher, crush the garlic and tomatoes into a jam-like texture. Add the pasta and sauce into one pot. Toss the pasta and sauce with tongs, slowly adding about ¼ cup of pasta water to thin the sauce.
    6. Serve while warm, garnished with parmesan.


Warm carrot and potato soup

Shared by Hannah Walters-Vida (Features Reporter)

In an effort to describe how good this soup is, the most a room full of Sil writers could come up with is “warm, warm soup, it hugs you from the inside”. Pretty much everyone in the office will agree that this is a great recipe for soup. I typically double the recipe and freeze the soup in mason jars for when I need a quick, filling meal.

This recipe is originally by Jennifer Segal and I made a few modifications to make it vegan friendly. This recipe yields 8 servings and takes about 45 minutes to make, but most of the time is spent letting the soup simmer. This soup can stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months, so it’s worth the investment in time. Just make sure to pop it into the fridge the day before wanting to reheat it!





    1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large pot.
    2. Add chopped onions and stir for about ten minutes or until soft. Avoid letting the onions turn brown.
    3. Add the curry powder and cook for an additional minute.
    4. Add chopped carrots, sweet potatoes, vegetable broth and salt. Allow the vegetables to come to a boil.
    5. Cover the pot and allow the vegetables to simmer on low heat for about 25-30 minutes.
    6. Stir in the chopped apples and honey. If you have a stick blender, you can directly puree the soup in the pot until the consistency is smooth and creamy. If you have a blender, let the soup cool slightly and then puree it in batches. Segal recommends leaving the hole in the lid open and covering it with a kitchen towel while blending to allow the steam to escape.
    7. Season your soup to taste with salt, pepper, curry powder or honey if desired.


Black bean and chickpea salad

Shared by Razan Samara (Arts & Culture Editor)

This is my go-to recipe for dinner with friends and potlucks. It also makes for a perfect side dish alongside lunch or dinner, I personally think it pairs really well with chicken tawook tacos and panko-breaded fish. This recipe yields about 3-4 servings and was inspired by Cookie and Kate.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself become quite reliant on this recipe. It requires minimal effort, which means I can throw a whole batch together pretty quickly the night before my early morning commutes. This recipe has filling ingredients, can easily travel and can be modified to meet your taste preferences. I encourage you to keep things new and interesting with every rendition of the dish!





    1. In a large bowl (like really large), combine all of your beans, corn, chickpeas and vegetables. Add in the lime or lemon juice, zest, olive oil and season with ground cumin, salt and black pepper to your taste! I tend to go heavy on the cumin.
    2. Mix all your ingredients.
    3. You can serve right away or cover the bowl and let it chill in the fridge for a couple hours to really enhance the flavours. This recipe can also last in the fridge for about 2-3 days, just make sure to replenish the flavours by adding in lemon or lime juice and giving it a quick stir before serving! I also like to add fresh tomatoes.
    4. Garnish with slices of lime, extra cilantro, avocados or even some tortilla chips!


[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

By: Mitali Chaudhary

Sometimes you just know a bad midterm mark is coming when you’re in the exam room, mind blank, slowly getting that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you listen to everyone else’s pencils scribbling furiously. Even worse is when you’re blindsided and left stunned at the hands of a subject you studied your heart out for. Either way, getting a bad mark on a midterm is a painful experience that not everyone can simply brush off.

In time, however, it’s entirely possible to bounce back. The best way to start this process is by determining exactly how you prepared for the test and what actions you can take in the future to fill the gaps in your knowledge or steps you can take to ready yourself better for future experiences. If this is done realistically, the reason behind your shortcoming can be picked out and smoothed over, which leads to greater chances of success in the course. Maybe your social hours or casual Internet usage need to be limited or maybe you’re lacking in the organizational department. Whatever the problem may be, once it’s identified, it’s much easier to seek help and set goals to correct it. Fortunately, McMaster University offers everything from counselling to extra help for virtually every course, as well as soft skill workshops for free that can provide support.

It’s also helpful to stay positive and to put the mark into perspective. Although it seems like a big deal at the moment, half a semester still remains and the finals are the real deciding factor of the course grade. It’s therefore much more productive to focus your energy on using the experience as an accurate depiction of what you still need to learn or work on, instead of wallowing over it for a month. Make sure you look at the class average too, it may be that you got a 65 percent and are disappointed by it, but if the class average was a fifty, then I’d say that’s a pretty good mark.

Essentially, to properly bounce back from a botched midterm, a lot of introspection is required, followed by some goal-setting and smart action. This lets the unpleasant event turn into a smudge in your distant memory instead of becoming a large mental stain that constantly intrudes on other thoughts.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.