The huge tower looming over the Michigan Union has had a storied, if not controversial, history.
When the Union was constructed, the plans were unmatched by similar spaces at other American colleges and universities, according to the Bentley Historical Library’s website. Allen B. and Irving K. Pond’s design called for a building some 250 feet long and about 200 feet wide — all of which would be capped by the massive tower in the middle.
The Union was first available for students to use in 1919 and cost more than $1.15 million to build.
But sitting atop the campus landmark, the tower has served as both the building’s architectural and historical focal point.
The tower was once home to three senior honorary societies, which together make up the “Tower Society,” according to a 1996 Daily article “Behind the Tower Walls.” The senior honor society Michagamua, Adara — a female-only honor society — and the Vulcans — an engineering senior honor society — have all been included in the “Tower Society” at one point in time.
The make-up of the “Tower Society” has changed over time, though. For example, the group Adara joined in the early 1980s after a Title IX lawsuit challenged the legality of allowing the then-male-only honor society Michagamua on campus.
As well as being home to the senior societies, the Union can partly thank the societies — specifically Michagamua — for its existence. Michigamua played an instrumental role in the fundraising that led to the construction of the Union itself. This effort fundamentally linked the organization with the building and led to an agreement with the University protecting Michagamua’s ability to use the seventh floor for its activities. After that, Michigamua met on the seventh floor of the Union, Adara on the sixth and the Vulcans on the fifth.
That arrangement lasted until the morning of February 6, 2000, when members of the Students of Color Coalition took over the space for 37 days in response to Michigamua’s alleged misuse of Native American culture.
After that occupation, Michigamua permanently vacated the location.
The seventh floor of the Union Tower now remains vacant.