NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A popular bus driver at Rutgers University was recently forced to resign from his position with the school's bus company, but students are speaking out on behalf of the worker.
Stanley McNeil's absence from his usual route has spurred students to organize an online petition calling for his reinstatement that has already garnered more than 4,000 signatures.
It's no wonder a video of one of his trademark motivational speeches has been viewed 166,000 times.
And now a new eight-minute YouTube video released Monday shows McNeil, a retired Newark firefighter who has driven the same route for two years, explaining his side of the story. The video has already been viewed 20,000 times.
"What happened at my job was very unfortunate… I had no intention of leaving the job," McNeil says in the eight-minute video.
"I was told that my services wasn't needed anymore. I was told that they didn't accept the fact that I laid hands and prayed on one of the students, and I said 'OK.'"
McNeil spoke of an incident involving a female student in a wheelchair: "That's what happened. I prayed for the lady," McNeil continues. "I put my hands on her and prayed."
"I was like, 'This lady, she's going to get a miracle. She's going to end up walking,'" McNeil said. "They said, 'We don't want you to do that… we don't need your services anymore.'"
McNeil told NJ.com that First Transit claimed to have video showing he did not use enough belts to secure the the student's wheelchair.
In July 2011, First Transit took over the nation's largest campus transportation system, which connects Rutgers' five campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway. Shortly thereafter, McNeil joined their army of regular Rutgers bus drivers.
Under the previous operator, Hoboken-based Academy Bus, the hundreds of drivers were unionized. Since the switch, there has been no union.
McNeil said that he was releasing the video because First Transit went back on their word not to discuss his departure publicly.
"I’m not sure, but I believe he had to resign to take care of other endeavors — he wanted to do other things," Rutgers official John Karakoglou told the Daily Targum. "I’m not sure. We definitely didn’t fire him.”
In the video he claims First Transit bosses told him, "We don’t want you to talk about God… You can motivate the students, but don’t talk about God."
McNeil continues, "I told my boss. I don’t regret it… I’m all about God. Your money can’t get me. The job don’t make much anyway."
First Transit released a statement about McNeil's departure yesterday night:
First Transit has long appreciated Mr. McNeil’s rapport with the students he transports at Rutgers University. We respect both his religious beliefs and the many positive messages he shared with the students. We likewise respect the beliefs and practices of all the Rutgers Students who choose to interact with Mr. McNeil.
This case is about safety, which is a core value of First Transit. All of our vehicle operators are instructed, “If it can’t be done safely, don’t do it.” Unfortunately, a full internal review revealed that Mr. McNeil had failed to follow a critical safety protocol that was cause for immediate termination. When advised of his violation, Mr. McNeil chose to resign.
In February 2012, Rutgers University Televison (RU-tv) produced a segment celebrating McNeil, who quickly became known for his inspirational and uplifting speeches while driving the LX, a route which connects College Avenue and Piscataway's Livingston campus.
"Students everywhere have been raving about the newest bus driver on campus, Mr. Stanley McNeil," said the host.
First Transit forced McNeil to resign on or about November 1 The Daily Targum was the first to report his departure on November 7.
A Twitter account that may or may not be controlled by McNeil (@busdriverLX) tweeted three hours before the Targum article was published: "You students will always be my kings and queens. Remember that success is yours for the taking. Love y'all."
"I’ve got separated from you guys but its only in the physical form," says McNeil in the new video. "In the spirit I'm still with you… You students mean so much to me."
Many Rutgers students have been showing their solidarity with McNeil via social media. There are YouTube videos posted by Rutgers students featuring interviews with the famous driver, including dozens of comments with words of encouragement and concern from students who speak fondly of McNeil's service.
There is also a Facebook page dedicated to the driver, with over 7,000 likes.
“I miss you guys,” said McNeil, who has been driving the LX bus two years. “I miss the students.”
“I love you and I want you to know the truth, and the truth is I wanna be there with you guys.”
"Adversity is supposed to be in your life. That means you’re doing something worthwhile."