Gilded quad: Thanks to a $116 million makeover, the seventy-four-year-old East Quadrangle, home of the U-M Residential College, now boasts a two-level atrium, handsome new furnishings, and air conditioning. But that didn’t stop some alums from bemoaning changes like the disappearance of the beloved events space the Halfway Inn (displaced by a new kitchen). Graduates of the college-within-a college pleaded, “Please don’t wreck East Quad,” recalls RC director Angela Dillard.

The upgrade is part of president Mary Sue Coleman’s “Residential Life” initiative, a $574 million expansion and renovation of U-M housing. The soon-to-retire president’s plans are in step with what today’s largely affluent students want, according to former RC director Charles Bright–he recalls that, in recent years, prospective RC students seemed taken aback by the building’s aged look and sparse amenities. Interestingly, when RC students were polled, their top priority was higher showerheads–twenty-first-century students are a lot taller than their Depression-era counterparts.

Despite its luxurious trappings, the RC’s reputation as a draw for liberal and artsy kids appears safe. The renovation improved art and music studios, and Dillard notes that they even kept a working darkroom. In addition to hosting the Prison Creative Arts and Semester in Detroit programs, the dorm now includes housing specifically for “residents of all gender identities.” And at the grand reopening ceremony in late September, Hannah Lee–a member of the East-Quad-based Michigan Community Scholars program–proudly told the audience, “As you walk through the hallway, you can hear people talking about social justice.”

This article has been edited since it appeared in the November 2013 Ann Arbor Observer. Hannah Lee’s academic affiliation has been corrected.