By Lindsay Cook
The Morris Center still stands, but many wonder if it will see the same fate as Deseret Towers: demolition.
According to Dean Wright, director of BYU Dining Services, the Morris Center will remain standing but will not provide cafeteria services after Aug. 25. At that time, he said, the kitchen and bakery in the cafeteria will be utilized to help support other dining facilities on campus such as Take-out Catering and the Canon Center. The dining room will operate as space for conferences through next summer instead of accommodating the usual group of freshmen eaters.
With the closure of the Morris Center, between 250 and 300 student jobs will be eliminated. During the lunch hour, the 1,000 students who once ate at the Morris center each day will be absorbed in other dining areas.
Despite these concerns, Wright said he has a long-term plan to meet the needs of BYU without the Morris Center.
“We are working to improve current facilities,” he said. “A new Subway will open and will help us serve more people. We are upgrading Taco Bell and Jamba Juice. There will be a new ordering system at Legend’s Grille … and we are designing a new dining facility in the Tanner Building.”
Wright said these plans were put into place to accommodate the dining needs of students and to create more opportunities instead of what most people anticipated: negative effects.
“This gives dining services the opportunity to offer and encourage and sell meal plans to students who live off campus,” he said. “Currently, the number of students that purchased meal plans on campus is the same as the number purchased by students off campus. As we continue to offer the variety, quality and choice, then I think we are, as a department, in a healthy situation.”
For over a year, however, rumors about the potential demolition of the Morris Center have created an emotionally unhealthy, stressful time for employees.
“The hardest part was the unknown,” said Brian Snow, former assistant manager of the Morris Center who was recently transferred to the Creamery after the elimination of his position. “We knew it was closing down and changes would be happening, but I did not know what they would be and how that would affect me, my family and my job schedule.”
Snow left a secure position at Albertson’s to work with the Morris Center almost three years ago. He said he was shocked when he heard the news of the cafeteria closure. With five kids and a wife at home to support, Snow said he felt a bit uneasy even though he, along with other employees, was assured there would be no lay-offs.
All Morris Center employees will be offered jobs in other areas of dining services, and like Snow, some have already been transferred to work in other areas on campus. Employees will also have the first opportunity to transfer to other operations in the fall, according to dining services.
With the gradual transfer of employees and a freeze on any new hires, the workload nearly doubled for employees still working in the cafeteria this summer.
“There are six people working 12 to 15 hours a day, five days a week,” said Molly Strong, a senior who has worked at the Morris Center since her freshman year. “We pick up extra shifts and just try and do the best we can. We work really hard to keep the place running.”
Work was particularly difficult during the Especially For Youth programs, but she said her co-workers at the Morris Center made the best of it and continued to perform their duties despite facing an unknown future.
Toni Lua, current manager of the Morris Center, said she has been proud of her employees for trying to make it a smooth transition. With only five more years until retirement, she said she is also unsure of where life will take her once the Morris Center has no need for her position.
“It has been enjoyable,” Lua said, reflecting on the 26 years she has worked in dining services. “I just hope that we made freshman lives easier in college. I know most are stressed and I want them to remember how they were able to come to the Morris Center, have a meal, visit with friends and know they did not have to cook or clean up.”
Almost 43 years after its opening, as the Morris Center cafeteria packs away the soft-serve ice cream, waffle makers, cereal dispensers and the famous Chicken Cordon Bleu service line, only memories remain.
“It was great,” said alumni Erika Quaife as she remembered her freshman year living in the dorms in 1997. “It was fun to sit with friends at the Morris Center … practically our whole ward would eat together at dinner … friendships were formed, romances blossomed.”