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Ohio State fires marching band director Jonathan Waters over 'sexualized culture'

OSU's popular band director Jon Waters has been fired for 'cultural issues' and an 'environment conducive to sexual harassment'.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In a shocking development, Ohio State has fired The Best Damn Band in the Land director Jon Waters  over a "sexualized culture", as first reported by the Columbus Dispatch. Waters had succeeded long time director Jon Woods, who'd served in the role for 28 years. Waters had taken the band to previously unforeseen heights of national attention and focus in his few years, culminating in an appearance in an Apple iPad commercial as well as a feature on The TODAY Show.

According to the Dispatch, the two month investigation was the result of a complaint of a parent which unearthed allegations of harassment, hazing, and even sexualized behavior. The attorney for Waters also claims that Ohio State went back on an offer to let him keep his job in exchange for making policy changes.

The contents of Ohio State's findings are enclosed in the following PDF. Some of the details venture squarely into the not safe for work side, while others fall into the kind of happenings anyone involved in a college's fraternity or sorority scene would either be familiar with or heard other tales of.

Some of the allegations from the report include:

  • That Waters knew about, attended, and monitored an Ohio State Marching Band tradition where students would march into the stadium clad only in their underwear, called "Midnight Ramp".
  • That Waters knew that many marching band members were given rather vulgar nicknames by other band members, and that he, on at least one occasion, referred to students by those nicknames. From the report:

When asked to estimate how many current nicknames are sexual or offensive, Waters responded that "fifty percent" probably were "questionable." When asked whether he thought such sexual nicknames are appropriate, Waters answered, "No." When asked why he then tolerates such sexual nicknames, Waters replied, "Good point."

  • That band members are assigned "tricks", or acts, which may be performed throughout their entire band careers. These tricks are often related to their nicknames, and the report gives multiple examples of sexually explicit tricks.
  • Per the report, "One witness stated that Waters texted dirty limericks to students. Waters acknowledged having cell phone numbers for squad leaders but denied ever texting dirty limericks."
  • Also, "One witness stated that she complained to Waters about changing on the bus in front of members of the opposite sex and he ignored her."
  • That Waters was aware of sexual harassment, or reasonably should have known about sexual harassment that created a hostile environment, but did not stop it.

New OSU president Michael Drake released the following statement in which he revealed former Ohio attorney general Betty Montgomery will be leading a comprehensive, independent investigation into Ohio State's marching band culture: