The Undergraduate Student Government banned the use of H&J Bus Tours at its meeting this week on the claims that the company has put Stony Brook University students at risk on multiple occasions and therefore should no longer be used by the university.
USG was contacted by Stony Brook Ballroom Dance Team’s program advisor about an experience the club had with the company on a trip to Binghamton on Feb. 18 to compete in the Binghamton Ballroom Dance Revolution competition. This was the first official complaint received by USG about the bus company.
In USG’s resolution to ban H&J Bus Tours, USG states that the company has been found to put students into dangerous situations on three separate occasions.
The owner and primary driver, Harry Janal, has been accused of hitting parked cars, nearly colliding with other vehicles while changing lanes and ignoring traffic lights. He is also rumored to have fallen asleep while driving. Janal has also been accused of terrible customer service and not taking responsibility for his actions when the USG Administrative Director contacted him on these issues.
A police report from Binghamton University Police states that Janal hit a car in a parking lot and damaged the passenger doors, side mirror and front fender. According to the report, the accident happened on Feb. 18.
“I don’t have to apologize to anybody,” Janal said. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years. I haven’t had an accident in 22 years.” Janal said there was “no reason to be scared” on the trip and that he was not falling asleep while driving.
Stony Brook Ballroom Dance Team president Yelena Mirsakova said Janal was “incredibly rude and snippy” often with “unintelligible speech.” The treasurer of the club, Seth Hoffman, who is also a Statesman staff writer, said Janal was “disconnected and out of focus.” Mirsakova said Janal avoided police instruction and treated the incident as a “personal problem, not a safety issue.”
According to the police report, the officer instructed the driver not to move the bus after it had seemed as though it scraped against the parked car. But the driver “rushed” away after with cars still in the lot, Mirsakova said.
“I’m not making excuses,” Janal said. “Other clubs use me all the time and don’t have any problems.”
Mirsakova said the club requested at least a partial refund for the company’s service, but has not received one yet. “We shouldn’t have to pay for a service that put us in danger,” Mirsakova said.
The banning of H&J Bus Tours will be made public on USG’s website and any club with the intention to use the company will be warned of these unsafe instances, according to USG Treasurer Thomas Kirnbauer. However, it will still be the club’s decision of whether or not to use the company.
Kirnbauer said he also had an unpleasant experience with the company when coming back from a trip he took. “He was switching lanes on the highway and almost merged into an 18 wheeler,” he said.
Manager of Intramural and Sport Club Programs David Hairston recommends the use of Fantastic Tours, another bus company, for clubs. Kirnbauer said Hairston claims that this company offers more competitive prices and is safer.
The USG Senate voted unanimously on the resolution, which states “H&J Bus Tours is not a safe mode of transport and should not be patronized by the Undergraduate Student Government,” and that USG “permanently ban the use of Stud-ent Activity Fee monies for H&J Bus Tours and remove H&J Bus Tours from the approved vendors list.”
Kirnbauer, while presenting the resolution to the senate, said, “The safety of the students should be our number one priority.”
Mirsakova said she is glad that USG has banned the use of the company. “I’m glad no one else has to go through [what we did].”