The Prevention, Advocacy & Research Center’s website unveiled two new features over winter break: online appointment scheduling and online chatting with peer advocates. The features were added because PARC “are always looking for more ways to help people reach [them] if they need [them],” according to PARC director Sarah Berg. Per PARC Peer Advocate and Office Coordinator Rachel Snyderman ’20, Berg raised the idea of the new features to student staffers, who helped tailor it to the needs of Brandeis students.

In an email, Berg told the Justice that PARC had been thinking about implementing a chat option for over a year, but that it took them a while to find a program which was user-friendly and affordable. At the end of the fall semester, PARC began a free trial with a software they were introduced to by Brandeis librarians, who used it to answer research questions. Berg said she likes that this software works in many languages and can be set to not store chat transcripts — a key feature for protecting student privacy. Now, chat is available from noon to  5 p.m. Monday-Friday whenever classes are in session.

Cost was also a question in PARC’s search for an online scheduling tool. It ended up using, an affordable option which allows visitors to add appointments to their calendars directly. PARC tested this feature over winter break. It is now live; peer advocate appointments can be booked from noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday when classes are in session. There is a separate booking website for Berg and Vilma Uribe, PARC’s assistant director of advocacy; they are available from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m on weekdays.

Berg and Snyderman agree that the new features will be beneficial to students. Snyderman said the features will give “more agency” to people using PARC’s services. Online scheduling allows students to book appointments at times and with advocates that they are most comfortable with, and, Snyderman said, online chatting allows access to their services for those who may not want to come to the PARC office or call the hotline. To Snyderman, this furthers the PARC advocates’ goal of ensuring that the people they help “are in the driver’s seat.” Additionally, Berg pointed out that online chatting instead of calling PARC on the phone adds “an extra layer of privacy,” and that online booking alleviates the anxiety of “com[ing] in unsure of who will be available to meet with you.” Berg hopes that the new features will help more community members benefit from PARC’s services.

Berg said she has already noticed students using the new features, and hopes that more will use them as awareness spreads. To promote the features, PARC has highlighted them in bystander trainings and in the PARC monthly e-newsletter. Moreover, PARC staff are discussing them with faculty in the hope that faculty members can spread the word.

Snyderman also noted that she has seen PARC grow tremendously over her three-year tenure on the team. She originally joined PARC because it “seemed like the best way for [her] to use [her] voice to speak out against violence through the empowerment of people impacted by violence.” In the future, Snyderman said she would love for PARC to form more relationships with campus groups so that the office can “form relationships with parts of our community that might not feel comfortable accessing support from PARC as it is right now.” Snyderman said she feels that learning about the needs of everyone on campus is vital for providing effective support to all members of the Brandeis community.

PARC is located in suite G-108 of the Usdan Student Center. For emergencies, call their hotline at 781-736-3370.

— Justice editor Sofia Gonzalez contributed reporting.