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Excited, curious BYU students react to caffeine on campus

PROVO — In more ways than one, there was a rush on caffeinated soda Thursday at BYU.

Yes, you read that correctly. BYU now serves caffeine.

Shortly after word spread about the university’s announced decision to sell caffeinated beverages on campus — and thanks to social media and smart phones, it spread quickly — excited and curious BYU students headed straight to spots on campus that sell drinks.

Students took photos of soda fountains that are now stocked with caffeinated drinks. They pointed at the coolers with regular Coke and Diet Coke. One student gave his friends a “Dude!” while noticing the new beverage section at a fast-food joint at BYU.

Like others who wanted a caffeinated Coke and a smile, BYU grad student Brianna Davis’ first stop was the Wilkinson Student Center to buy a cold one.

“I opened up Facebook and saw that my husband had posted that he’d bought caffeine here (at BYU),” Davis said. “And I got really excited.”

Her anticipation fizzled when she read a sign posted on the still-non-caffeinated cooler at the BYU Store’s Twilight Zone market.

“Today’s announcement came as a surprise to us, but we are pleased to announce that we too will be able to carry caffeine. It will take us a week or two to get it in, but it is coming! (Smiley face emoji)”

Fortunately for Davis and other chilled caffeine seekers, there was plenty of newly stocked product elsewhere at The Wilk. Even the BYU Creamery on 900 East now has a selection of caffeinated drinks. The first caffeine item sold there: a bottle of Mr. Pibb. (An ensuing order included 12 gallons of milk, for what it's worth.) A Coca-Cola semi-truck drove around campus toward the student center loading dock at 9:30 a.m.

Judging students' reactions, it will need to come back soon.

“I was starting to freak out a little bit,” Davis, who drinks caffeinated products for pleasure and for migraine headaches, said about one store not offering caffeine. “I want to buy caffeine today, because I can. It’s a really exciting development for me. I was nervous that they weren’t going to have any on campus.”

A few minutes later, Davis had a cold bottle of Coke in her hand in the cafeteria.

So did sophomore Stefan Bradley.

“I don’t drink soda that often anyway,” he said, “but I just got one for the sake of getting one on the first day.”

Some students weren’t convinced, wondering if this could be a widespread prank.

Bradley, a pre-finance major, received text messages from four different friends telling him there’s legal caffeine on campus, but he had to see it to believe it.

“I thought it was a kind of a joke at first,” he said, “because it’s been such a big thing for a long time.”

Bradley admits he hasn’t understood why the university didn’t offer it for so long.

“I’m super happy about it,” he said, shortly after buying a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola on campus. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

Gordon Bennett, a junior who’s studying geography, also wondered, “Is this a joke?” after checking his Facebook feed.

“I came to the Wilkinson Center to see if it’s legit, to see if it’s really happening,” he said. “Now I don’t have to go to the (off-campus) Southeast Market.”

Bennett, a Georgia native, also thought it was a joke — of the non-humorous nature — that BYU didn’t offer caffeinated products before Thursday. He and other students have tried to get a poll going to show university officials that the demand was there even if the school had publicly stated otherwise.

The final decision was explained in a Q&A on the BYU Dining Services’ website:

“In the mid-1950s, the director of BYU Food Services decided not to sell caffeinated soft drinks. This decision has continued on since that time. Until more recently, Dining Services rarely received requests for caffeinated soda. Consumer preferences have clearly changed and requests have become much more frequent.”

Bennett, a junior, pointed out that chocolate milk, readily available on campus, has small amounts of caffeine.

“They’ve turned their backs on us for the longest time. Now it’s finally happening. I’m pretty stoked to see that BYU is finally getting with the program,” said Bennett, who added that caffeine is not mentioned in the church's Word of Wisdom and that it's "your own personal discretion to decide."

Freshman Joshua Teasdale was also among the "quite happy" crowd. He believes having caffeine available on campus will help him remain alert during 18-hour school days.

"Now I can stay awake in classes," he said.

Megan McAllister, a sophomore studying exercise science, didn’t find out about the news until she approached one of the soda fountains at The Wilk. She was pleasantly surprised to see that a different kind of Diet Coke was being offered.

“I was actually kind of excited when I saw that they changed it because I’d rather have the caffeine than the caffeine-free,” McAllister said, laughing. “I had no idea until I saw that it was the grey (caffeinated) instead of the brown (non-caffeinated) and I was like, ‘Yes!’”

The University of Utah’s official Twitter account (@UUtah) had some fun with the announcement.

https://twitter.com/UUtah/status/910910020438474753“So now you have red cans and we have blue cans? What a crazy, mixed-up world we live in. #BottomsUpBYU.”

Davis is all for the Y. getting a special blue Coke label similar to how the U. is reportedly going to get school-approved red Pepsi labels.

“I think they should do that,” she said. “That would be hilarious.”

Not everybody was giddy about BYU’s decision to sell caffeine. McAllister said she has friends who only drink non-caffeinated drinks because they don’t want to break the Word of Wisdom.

“There might be some people that put up a fuss about it,” she admitted.

Sydney Layton, a sophomore who works at the BYU Store, laughed about a conversation she had with family members after the announcement.

“My whole family is like, ‘Oh my gosh! What? When are they going to start serving coffee?’” Layton said, smiling. “They were just being dumb.”

A fun, facetious, adorable kind of dumb, of course.

Layton planned on creating a caffeinated Diet Coke-Coke combo at the cafeteria soda fountain around the corner from her store.

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “I don’t even like caffeine that much, but I think I’m going to buy some just to make history. You kind of have to, ya know?”

There was one college student on campus who gasped and admitted to being bummed out when he heard the news.

“Dang!” said Utah Valley University freshman Carter Whitaker, who was at the Provo school to visit a friend.

“Now I can’t hold that over my friends and say UVU is so much better than BYU because we have caffeine.”

On the bright side for Utah Valley students, they can still brag that their school hasn’t lost as many football games as BYU has this season.

In light of the Cougars' pigskin woes, this caffeine campus victory could not have come at a better time.

Now BYU students are having a "What's next?" discussion about what other rule will change.

"Beards are next," Bradley said.

That might have been the caffeine talking.