I read with delight that the OCC is moving from Weston and integrating with the Alumni Office.  This makes sense in and of itself (and probably warrants a post of its own), but the bigger benefit, in my view, is reopening Weston to its natural and proper use: upper class housing.   In the article discussing the future of Weston, there was no mention of turning it into housing.  Failure to do so* would be, simply, an enormous mistake for the following reasons:

  • It just makes sense, from a campus planning perspective, to have an uninterrupted row of residential row houses.  These houses represent the heart of senior (and on weekends, campus social) life.  For decades, Weston has been the outlier, remaining dark on weekends while its neighbors are teeming with life.  Why keep it as such?
  • Williams has gradually and slowly increased its enrollment in recent years, with entering classes moving from around 529 to around 550.  Over four years, that is an extra 84 people on campus (or, say, 70, accounting for study abroad and attrition).  Yet, not only has Williams not built additional housing, it has actually eliminated a few coops, and about 12 years ago it turned Bascom, which used to be the single best dorm on campus, into the Admissions Office.  What does that mean?  Fewer seniors getting prime rooms, more sophomores in doubles, and less common space in campus dorms.  Turning Weston into housing would alleviate all of those issues.

More thoughts below the break

  • Keeping up with the Joneses … Williams is far, far superior to Amherst in terms of non-residential facilities … but Amherst has built / renovated a tremendous amount of absolutely spectacular dorms in recent years, and the Jeffs now have a definite advantage in terms of housing options.  Meanwhile, Williams has done little-to-nothing to upgrade its housing stock over the past 5-10 years.  (Corrected).  Would it be so terrible to be able to showcase one prime, brand new dorm smack in the middle of campus, not to mention the domino effect on other dorms as cramped doubles become sweet singles?
  • There is simply no need for more office space on campus.  Williams has just completed two enormous faculty office buildings, and is in the midst of building a massive new library, which will surely include ample flexible office space.  Paresky and the building at the base of Spring Street also added more campus office space in recent years.  Meanwhile, the college has been shrinking the size of its administrative staff.  Why build more offices in a time of downsizing / hiring freezes?
  • Williams needs more party spaces on big weekends like homecoming and winter carnival.  The ground floor of Weston could provide, if renovated correctly, an amazing party room to augment what its neighbors Spencer, Perry, and Wood already have to offer.  And maybe the basement could be turned into something cooler and more creative, like a jazz-club type atmosphere, or a top-notch space for hip-hop DJ’s, or a late night coffee house, or whatever younger people more in-the-know than me are missing right now.
  • One of the obstacles right now to accepting more transfer students, veterans, international students, and other desirable demographics previously discussed on Ephblog is that Williams is short on a lack of additional beds on campus.  Weston is huge, and could help alleviate that situation by making more housing available.  Looking forward, if Williams ever wants to modestly grow its student body in the future, there are few places on campus where additional housing could realistically be constructed.  So returning Weston to housing adds flexibility for the future, as well.
  • Every senior should have an opportunity, if they desire, to live either in a co-op or in a row house single.  I don’t think that is currently the case.  Returning Weston to housing would surely remedy that.
  • Even if more office space is needed, there is no need for it to be placed right at the heart of campus.  This prime location should be reserved for seven-day-a-week student use.
  • It would return the building to its original historic use, which is always a plus.
  • Financing the renovation: lots of Ephs from the ’50’s and 60’s have fond memories of Weston as a dorm.  Lots of Ephs from the ’50’s and ’60’s have mucho dinero.  Do the math …
  • After shuttering two dining halls, it would be nice to throw the students a bone.  And there is still the former Greylock dining hall, a large, open, still-unprogrammed space, which could be used for any variety of things.

*Back when I was a student, there was a story, apparently apocryphal, that Weston could not be student housing because the fraternity that donated to the college had stipulated that no minority could live there, or perhaps that no one could live there out of fear that it would be used to house minorities.  Even if that story was true (apparently not), (a) I can’t imagine anyone suing to enforce that, and (b) it sounds like an illegal restrictive covenant in all events.

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