Stan McNeil, a Rutgers University bus driver who was beloved by students for his motivational speeches, was dismissed for safety violations. Or, according to McNeil, for saying a prayer.
McNeil prayed for a disabled student in a wheelchair and was asked to leave his job soon after, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.
“I prayed for the lady, I put my hand on her and I prayed,” McNeil said in a YouTube video posted earlier this week. “They said we don’t need your services anymore. They said we don’t do that here.”
He had been asked before not to pray for students on his buses, and this time, the administration asked for his resignation.
Rutgers students consider McNeil an institution at the school, with the doses of inspiration that he delivers from behind the wheel. McNeil’s Twitter account, @busdriverLX, has 2,500 followers, according to The Blaze.
“I enjoy motivating students,” he said in a Feb. 2012 “Person of the Week” feature in the Rutgers student newspaper The Daily Targum. “It’s important to motivate people because it helps bridge the gap.”
“Older people gave me encouraging words growing up, so I want to help people today [by giving them].”
McNeil’s dismissal has caused an outcry on campus, prompting a wave of support and protest on social media. A petition on Change.org has gathered almost 6,000 signatures.
Student Hannah Young said she emailed the university’s transportation department to express her shame that her school could fire a man over a prayer.
“You will never know how much Stan helped his students,” Young said. “He was an inspiration, but he was also that one ray of sunshine that many students will never admit to desperately needing.”
According to John Karakoglou, manager of transit systems for the Rutgers University Department of Transportation Services, McNeil was not fired. The bus service is run by a contracted company, First Transit.
“He had some personal things he was dealing with with the bus company,” Karakoglou told The Daily Targum. “I’m not sure, but I believe he had to resign to take care of other endeavors he wanted to do other things, I’m not sure. We definitely didn’t fire him.”
McNeil is still delivering inspiration from afar. On Nov. 7, McNeil tweeted, “You students will always be my kings and queens. Remember that success is yours for the taking. Love ya’ll.”