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Education


Ousted OSU band director vows to clear his name
The attorney for former music director Jonathan Waters says he was 'wrongfully terminated' over accusations of inappropriate band behavior  
Story by MANDIE TRIMBLE


 
They call themselves the Best Damn Band in the Land, but accusations of inappropriate behavior has led to the firing of OSU band director Jon Waters.
Courtesy of OSU
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In his two years as director of the OSU Marching Band, Jonathan Waters was praised for using technology to develop complex routines that went viral on the web. Now Jon Waters is out of a job.

OSU fired him after an investigation found what officials call "serious cultural issues."

For Ohio Public Radio, WOSU's Mandie Trimble reports Waters intends to clear his name.

Trimble on ousted OSU band director

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Investigation uncovers culture of sexual innuendo
Waters’ firing comes after a two month investigation prompted by complaints made by parents of band members. The investigation uncovered sexually explicit activities which appear to have gone for years. 

In an online video statement, Ohio State University President Michael Drake called the findings of the investigation, “profoundly disappointing.”

“Very serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the band creating a hostile environment for students,” says Drake.

Ohio State compliance investigators interviewed nine former or current band members, Waters and other band leaders.

The report details a “tradition” which involved band members marching into the Horseshoe late at night wearing only underwear; a “newsletter” with explicit, disparaging information about band members; “rookie” band members were given sexually-charged nicknames. It also describes drunken, sexually lewd behavior during away games and on buses.

Band director blamed for allowing inappropriate behavior
Investigators concluded band director Jonathan Waters knew or should have known about the activities and failed to eliminate the sexual harassment. The report also states Waters would yell and swear at band members at times.

Drake says, “Even one instance of harassment or hazing or assault is one too many. And though we are not alone among campuses across America facing these issues. This is our home and our responsibility.”

Contacted by phone, Waters declined to comment, but referred us to his attorney - David Axelrod. Axelrod would not be recorded for this story.

Axelrod says Waters was shocked by the termination. He said OSU last week gave Waters a choice: quit or adopt a zero tolerance policy and agree to a cultural assessment of the band.

Axelrod said his client whole-heartedly agreed to cooperate and keep his job.

But Axelrod said university officials called Waters back this week and reneged on their offer, giving Waters another choice - resign or be fired. Axelrod said the university has given no reason for the change in offer.


Waters tried to change OSU band culture
Waters has a long history with the OSU Marching Band. Before he became band director in fall 2012, he was an assistant director. As a student he marched with the band.

Axelrod called Water’s firing “inappropriate” and “unfair,” noting Waters inherited the cultural issues.
In the report, Waters said he took steps to fix the culture. He said he eliminated the underwear march in the ‘Shoe and banned the derogatory “newsletters.”

But when investigators asked Waters why he tolerated sexually-explicit nicknames, he responded with, “Good point.”

Assistant Band Director Christopher Hoch testified “the Marching Band’s culture…is moving in the right direction,” and said, “no one has worked harder to address the culture than Waters.”

And a former band member we talked to, on condition of anonymity, said Waters did make efforts to change the culture and suspended a band member for inappropriate behavior.


OSU resident stands by firing of Waters
But OSU president Drake said the university will move forward with a new band director.  He says, “We must do better.”

Drake says, “Every single student on our campus must be able to learn, to grow and to experience Ohio State in a positive environment.”

The University said it will offer counseling to band members as they need it. And OSU officials say former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery will conduct an assessment of the band’s culture and offer counsel on Title IX compliance.

Axelrod said Waters has been “wrongfully terminated.” He said Waters plans to clear his name, though Axelrod could not say if that means a lawsuit in the future.

 

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