Baxter services to be separated in relocation

While College administrators and students have spent considerable time over the last few years planning for the construction of the new Student Center, they’ve also paid great attention to preparing for the expected two years of construction. For students, there will be many changes. A snack bar in Mission Park and a decentralized mailbox system are two of the most prominent.

The Baxter Transition Committee is in charge of organizing the transformation. Headed by Chris Williams, assistant director for Architectural Services, the group was formed last year out of College Council (CC). “We realized that students were more affected by this than anybody and could provide us with things that we might not see,” Williams said. “Everybody played a role. The stakeholders had input and we tried to give people choices as much as possible.”

All of the expenses involved in relocation will come out of the new Student Center budget, according to Williams. Currently, the transition process is to take up two to three percent of the overall budget of $36 million.

“We initially just drew up a list and started brainstorming in terms of available space and what’s affordable. . .but it was important that we not compromise people’s activities. . .There were a lot of blind alleys, a lot of trial and error,” Williams said.

The students’ number one concern in the transition was the relocation of the Snack Bar. “We looked at several options, such as the Log, a decentralized model,” Williams said. “We finally settled on Mission Park.” He also cited Mission’s “variety of different types of spaces that would make for a more intimate setting.”

Moving the Snack Bar to Mission would also allow a switch “without a huge re-location of things,” such as refrigeration and food storage.

While some have proposed that the Snack Bar be moved to the Log or other spaces, according to Williams, “the logistics would break our necks.” In addition, he explained that such a move would “conflict with existing programs,” something the transition team tried to avoid whenever possible.

“Mission could be more central, but there’s not a lot of space around in the center of campus waiting around for us to claim it,” Williams said.

“We are pretty much focused on an action plan that has [Mission] as the location,” Robert Volpi, director of Dining Services said.

The current working plan is to have food service for the Snack Bar in the current dining hall space, with seating in existing smaller rooms off to the side. The Snack Bar’s proposed hours of operation are from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week. There will be “no Snack Bar in the middle of the day,” Williams said.

However, the use of an existing food preparation space will allow the snack bar to expand its offerings to include “pizza, panini sandwiches, and lots of different choices,” Volpi said. Dining Services hopes to have the menu and scheduling finalized by March and a retro-fit design by April.

In addition to the establishment of the Snack Bar in the dining hall, Dining Services plans to create a kiosk in the Mission Park lobby to serve “smoothies and lattes” and to function as a “late-night operation,” according to Volpi.

Besides the Snack Bar, Dining Services also plans to relocate many of the services associated with Baxter Dining Hall.

In an average week, 6,500 meals are consumed in the Baxter Dining Hall. According to Volpi, the students willl have to be distributed amongst the remaing dining halls. “We looked at these 6,500 meals and knew we have four other units to take up the slack, so we took this 6,500 and divided it by four to determine the distribution of meals at these four places.”

As a result of this increased demand on each of the four remaining dining halls, all of them “will offer full service seven days a week, with Driscoll, Dodd and Greylock becoming full time operations,” Volpi said.

The current Baxter Dining Hall staff will also be re-distributed throughout the remaining dining halls according to the anticipated increase in student traffic in each building. The Baxter bakeshop and catering services will be relocated to Greylock.

In addition, Grab and Go will move to the Goodrich Living Room. According to Adam Grogg ’04, a member of the Baxter Transition Committee and the Student Centers Management Team, this transition is designed to have “minimal impact on the space.”

“While a small loading dock will have to be temporarily installed at the rear of the space, the program will move in and out of the Living Room on a daily basis, leaving behind only a row of coolers that will be hidden behind a partition during non-noon hours,” Grogg said. “The integrity of the Living Room as a meeting space for student groups will be preserved.”

Goodrich was chosen for its relatively central position on campus and for its ability to facilitate the goals of Grab and Go. “We wanted to maintain various aspects of the program – not only did we want students to be able to pick up lunches on the fly, but we also wanted to recreate the social aspect of Grab and Go so that students would continue to use it as both a way to eat and a place to meet,” Grogg said.

Along with Grab and Go, the Activities Office will also be relocated into Goodrich. It will occupy a portion of the Student Activities Resource Center on the second floor above the Living Room.

By relocating these two services to Goodrich, members of the committees sought to preserve the building’s function as a student center. “While ideas such as taking over mail room duties or snack bar duties were discussed, we all decided that any changes made to Goodrich during the interim should leave untouched the building’s physical structure and, more importantly, its role as a student center on campus,” Grogg said.

Other relocations will not be quite as simple. The mailroom, another prominent feature of the current Baxter building, will become a “decentralized system,” according to Williams. Calling the mailroom relocation “especially troublesome,” he said that the committee “looked at first to do it centrally, but all of the solutions were very expensive.” Proposed ideas had included moving the mail room to the lobby of Sawyer Library, but these were ruled out due to financial concerns.

Instead, the mailboxes will be moved to the four other dining halls and the campus broken into corresponding zones based on housing. The boxes will be located in public spaces in the dining halls “so that you can come in and check your mailbox whenever you want,” Williams said.

There will also be a central receiving and sorting facility in a temporary structure to be built behind Chapin Hall, where all mail is received. The package window will be located in this structure as well. Construction on utilities for this building will begin this spring.

Several other offices in Baxter will have to be relocated with the onset of construction. The Outing Club and the Chaplain’s Office will move into Siskind House, located behind Schow.

Those involved have a mixed reaction to this plan. “On the one-hand, of course, it will be a keen disappointment and perhaps a hardship on our office to be displaced from a location that is now so indisputably the center of campus,” said Richard Spalding, Chaplain of the College.

“On the other hand, does anyone know where the center of campus will actually be. . .I like to hope that the ‘MCC circle’ behind Schow will become even more of a hub than it is now during the construction. . .and in fact there are even a few net gains for us in Siskind,” he said, citing the increase in space and privacy.

The College’s radio station, WCFM, will also be relocated, but on a permanent basis. As a part of the slated renovation of Prospect over the next two summers, the station will move into new studios in the basement of that building. These studios will be outfitted with new equipment, the cost of which will come out of the budget of the new Student Center in order to account for the loss of that location for the station.

The Record office will move into the American Legion building at the end of Spring Street. Many of the Dining Services offices currently located in Baxter will move into Droppers House.

However, a few other relocations remain undetermined, including Peer Health and the Telephone Office. Members of these groups expressed hopes similar to those of many others. “I am concerned about the transition,” Melissa Umezaki, co-coordinator of Peer Health said. “Obviously it is important for the Peer Health office to be accessible to all students throughout the year.”

“The nature of our Call-In Walk-In program requires us to be available and convenient to all Williams students. . .not just a select few who go into the office every once in a while for meetings,” Umezaki said.

Decisions are also being made as to how best to orchestrate these moves across campus, as they will coincide with the graduation ceremonies. “We’re trying to schedule it so that not everyone moves on the same day. . .some people have to be operable the next day, while others aren’t time critical,” Williams said.

Despite these potential inconveniences, many are still optimistic about the project. “I trust that the end result will be a center which the students and the Williams community as a whole will be very, very proud of and excited about,” said Douglas Bazuin, the new director of Residential and Student Life. “Of course it will take time to fully create and build this space in a way that will compliment the Williams campus for years to come.”

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