Weston construction to start on schedule

Weston House is fenced off in preparation for renovations to the future admissions building. Christian Ruhl/Photo Editor
Weston House is fenced off in preparation for renovations to the future admissions building. Christian Ruhl/Photo Editor

The College began preliminary construction on Weston House, where the offices of admission and financial aid will move next year.

The current work is mostly preparation for December, when construction is set to begin in earnest. The renovations will take about a year to complete, which should allow the admissions staff time to move to Weston House in December 2015, after it finishes processing early admission applications. The work will temporarily reduce the number of parking spots available and force tours to circumvent the construction

Now, the Office of Admission is located in Bascom House and the Office of Financial Aid is located in Hopkins Hall. Bascom House, built as a student residence, cannot meet the needs of Admission as well as Weston will be able to.

“Currently, the conference room where we spend a lot of our time does not have enough seating for our entire staff. When you have a visitor like the President [Falk] who has to sit on an extra chair up against the wall, that’s a problem in my mind,” Director of Admission Richard Nesbitt ’74 said.

The office space in Weston will also be built to accommodate Admission’s increasing reliance on technology. The space is designed to allow the staff to use Skype and other forms of electronic communication to interview students and communicate with directors and counselors when they visit high schools throughout the country. The first floor will serve as a reception area and the receptionist will be trained to answer questions regarding both admissions and financial aid. Admission will have its offices on the second floor and Financial Aid will have its offices and its own reception area on the third floor. The building will provide room for both the professional and support staff. Weston will also feature a larger space for in which Admission can hold information sessions.

“Bascom House does not have sufficient parking when we have big groups visit campus in the summer and weekends in the fall and spring. And we often have to move information sessions to Bronfman or Wege [Auditorium] to accommodate the kinds of traffic we might see. There could be several hundreds of people passing through in [the] height of the summer, and we don’t have the space, parking or restroom facilities for that. That’s not shedding the best light on Williams College,” Nesbitt said.

“The idea of Weston is to create a space to accommodate large groups. The presentation room will hold up to 100 people and the building is closer to Bronfman and Wege,” Nesbitt said.

Weston is a better location for the admission and financial aid offices for several reasons.  It’s closer to most buildings campus tours go visit and has a visible presence on Main Street, whereas Bascom is set off of on Stetson Court.

“Bascom is not terribly close to Main Street, it’s a little off the beaten path … Weston is a beautiful, stately building that I think will be even more beautiful after this work is done. It will be the gateway to Williams College and reflect the warmth and personality of the College to create a strong first impression,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt also believes co-housing the admission and financial aid offices is a logical change.

“We want to emphasize affordability to families. Also, current students will be coming in and out [of the Office of Financial Aid]. That’s an important opportunity for prospective students to see and interact with current students,” Nesbitt said.

Before the College moved Admission to Bascom House, its offices were in Mather House, a space that Nesbitt was smaller and more problematic than Bascom. Admission moved to Bascom in mid-June of 2002 as Mather House needed to be moved for the construction of the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, which began in the fall of 2002. Bascom was intended to be a temporary office space that Admission would occupy for about five years. The College did some work on Bascom but its features are still more indicative of a dormitory.

Prior to 2002, Bascom House was the most popular student residence in the housing lottery after co-ops and had room for 19 students, who were most often seniors. According to Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, Bascom House may serve as office swing space for a brief time while the College completes other construction projects, but will return to its original use as a residence hall in the future. Along with the planned Stetson Court dormitory, Bascom House will form a small new quarter for students.