Presence, an online platform that consolidates information about student life, activities and communications, will be launched by the Student Union and the Department of Student Activities in fall 2019. Presence will involve aspects of student and campus life — other than academics — including campus clubs, the Student Union, Conference and Event Services, the Department of Community Service and the Department of Student Activities. It will facilitate communication between the students and staff. 

Hannah Brown ’19, the Student Union president, said in an interview with the Justice that with Presence, clubs will no longer need listservs. “Clubs will be able to have their own portals for communication, for organizing,” she explained. “It also means that everything would be streamlined, like hosting events, renting spaces, forms and all of that.” Brown explained that when students involved in a club request funding for an event that club will host, the departments the funding is being requested from will be notified through Presence, and the system will move the students through the process step by step. 

Aaron Finkel ’19, the Union vice president, explained in the same joint interview, “What Presence is in my view is a system where it provides a personalized student life experience.” He explained that every student will get a Presence student portal and that every club will have a page. “You can subscribe to the clubs that you're a part of and it will appear on … your wall on Presence, and you'll get all the updates from those clubs,” he explained.

Brown went on to explain that with Presence, students will be able to add club or University events that they are interested in attending on their Google calendar. She also added there is a chance that students will be able to add community service hours through Presence rather than logging them in the Sage. Brown also said that applications for recognition of clubs and hosting campus events will be on the Presence website. Through this, she added, the Student Union will be better connected with the clubs. “Right now, all of these resources are all over the place,” Brown said. “If you want to reserve a room, you have to Google it to figure out which one you want to do and you have to email someone.” 

Finkel added, “The Student Union will primarily use Presence as a way of communicating with the student body. It allows us to do the elections, announcements and everything through that. And gone are the pesky email lists that everybody hates … so it'll just become a normal part of student life just as big as LATTE.”

Brown explained that students will be able to have an official Brandeis document that has their extracurricular experience on it, like an extracurricular resume, because everything will be recorded on Presence. “You could even write different events and skills and put those on your resume,” Brown said. “So for example, you've been [to] bystander training, [if] you've had CPR training, you have a document that certifies that you did do it.” Finkel added, “It's like an automatic co-curricular transcript in a way.” They also highlighted that it would be different from listservs because only active members will receive notifications.

Brown and Finkel said Presence is an outside company that is used by many institutions, both public and private. After Brandeis pays for the one-time investment fee, the company will take care of the maintenance of the website, Brown said. Finkel added, “Because it's such a new program, we'll have a lot of input in … how it evolves and how it's developed. Just alone in our video conference that we had, we just came up with a bunch of ideas for them and they were like, ‘Oh, let me write this down and we'll work on this.’” 

They further explained that the University will incorporate Presence over the summer and it will be available starting in the fall to students. Although it will not be working at its full operational capacity right away, it will be developed over time. The one-time investment fee of $17,000 will be split between the Union and the Department of Student Activities, the latter of which will also take on the yearly maintenance fee of $12,000. They also said students’ data will be secured in Presence because it will be connected through the Office of University Registrar. No one will be able to access student data other than the Registrar.