Ohio State Fires Band Director Waters

Ohio State announced Thursday afternoon that marching band director Jonathan Waters had been removed from his post amid an investigation into "serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment" within the band.

Ohio State announced the termination of band director Jonathan Waters today over what new school president Michael Drake termed "very serious cultural issues" and a "hostile environment for students."

Waters oversaw a renaissance in the band's popularity over the past two seasons since taking over from Dr. Jon Woods but is accused of leading a band that faced "serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment."

Ohio State released a statement Thursday that in part read, "While the Ohio State Marching Band has embraced a tradition of excellence and become a source of enormous pride for the entire Buckeye family, a recent review of the Marching Band culture and practices revealed conduct by members of the band and staff that is inconsistent with the University's values and Title IX requirements."

In a YouTube statement released on Ohio State's website, Drake states, "Last week, the senior leadership of the university and I were presented with the findings of a two-month investigation by the office of university compliance into the Ohio State marching band, which found among other things very serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the band, creating a hostile environment for the students. I was profoundly disappointed to learn this.

"We can -- and according to our values and Title IX, we must -- do better. Even one instance of harassment or hazing or assault is one too many. Though we are not alone among campuses across America facing these serious issues, this is our home and our responsibility."

In addition, the university has appointed former state attorney general Betty Montgomery to oversee an independent task force that review the matter. An interim band director will be appointed and the band will play as scheduled during the upcoming season, Drake said, as a search for a permanent director is undertaken.

According to the investigation report posted to OSU's website, in May a parent of a band member reported to the university's office of compliance that "she had concerns about whether the Marching Band’s culture was sexualized, and stated that its members were made to swear secrecy oaths about objectionable traditions and customs."

The parent's initial claim included the description of a band tradition of "Midnight Ramp" in which members marched into the stadium in their underwear under the direction of the band staff. According to the band directors asked in the report, Midnight Ramp is a longstanding tradition that has included more supervision from band directors in years past after an alcohol-related incident but one that was in "transition" in recent years and was scheduled to be eliminated in 2014.

The report also indicates that band members were often given sexually themed nicknames (though Waters suggested in 2012 that the band go easy on such terms) and were often given "tricks" to perform related to those names during their time in the band, though Waters denied that happened in any official capacity. The report also describes a newsletter that was often created and distributed by members on road games that would include "disparaging information about members and sexually explicit content, including sexual activities of members" but was discontinued by Waters in 2012.

Other allegations include Waters sending dirty limericks to students, something he denied; rookie initiations and midterms that involved dildos and other sexually suggestive actions; an unofficial songbook that included dirty lyrics set to popular songs as well as other Big Ten fight songs; and Waters ignoring complaints about members having to change in front of other members.

Nine former and current band members were questioned for the report, with one describing the band's culture as "sexualized" and others stating that "alcohol use and abuse is a large part" of the band's culture.

According to the report, "Waters stated that the culture is evolving and that changing the culture is still a process. He stated that he would not describe the culture as sexualized and that sexual harassment is not a part of the culture. He also said that sexual innuendo is found in much of what college students do."

In the end, however, the report says, "Waters knew or reasonably should have known about sexual harassment that created a hostile environment" and that "Waters failed to take action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects," which led to his dismissal.

The report also mentions a sexual assault committed one one band members against another in the fall of 2013 that led to the assailant's expulsion as well as an instance of sexual harassment in the athletic band in March 2013 that led to questions about Waters' handling of the situation.

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