While Science Hill aspired to concentration, the West Side colleges were more scattered. They were initially conceived in clusters like the East colleges. By 1967 planners envisaged a tight string of colleges along the ecotone line, with large adjacent playing fields, a field house and nearby graduate student housing and commercial center. Ultimately they became a loose string with gaps between the knots.

This strategy of dispersal aimed, in part, to gain state support for west, and eventually north, campus infrastructure (roads, sewers and electrical conduits) while funding was still available. As a result, sites were prepared only to be developed later.

Another motive may have been a belief that the individual identity of the colleges would be strengthened by having buffer zones between them. The isolating effect of such diffusion was not fully anticipated.