Former Ohio State University Marching Band Director Jon Waters says he wants to set the record straight after he was dismissed nearly two weeks ago when a two-month investigation revealed a “sexualized culture” within the band.
Waters said on Tuesday he was “shocked” by the nature of the “one-sided” report that found the conduct of the band and staff "inconsistent with the University's values and Title IX requirements. “This was a tremendous rush to judgment on faulty information. You know people make mistakes; we all make mistakes. In this case, the mistake was that the students and the alumni and their experience were not represented and I think that's why we see such a push back in our community.”
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The two-month investigation was triggered by the complaint of a parent. It revealed evidence that students routinely harassed one another and 38-year-old Waters knew about it or should have known. Waters says many complaints and concerns outlined in the report occurred 10 years ago, or longer. He says the concerns represented a culture that began in the 1930s and now were suddenly “placed on my shoulders.”
Some of the incidents outlined in the investigation including a “Midnight Ramp” where students would march into Ohio Stadium wearing only underwear. The report reveals Water was present and oversaw the event, but ended the practice last month.
Other examples include sexual nicknames given to rookie band members. At least two witnesses revealed Waters used at least one of the sexual nicknames to a band member.
Witnesses also stated rookie members were assigned to perform “tricks” upon command – some of which were sexual in nature. However Waters stated that he never witnessed nor heard of any of the tricks, and does not believe that such tricks are “performed on Band time.”
Witnesses also discussed a Songbook containing misogynistic and alternate sexual lyrics to Ohio State and numerous other collegiate songs. Waters says he saw the book as a student at Ohio State University, but did not view it as a staff member.
Waters says the Ohio State Marching Band will be forever changed by the report, but wants to focus on the future. “I think we have to move forward and pick up the shattered pieces in the wake of this report. There will be a new normal,” Waters explained. “What I want to do is pick up those pieces. The alumni, the students and the community and the university deserve that.”
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Waters argues steps he took to change the sexual culture within the band had not been revealed in the report. He says the culture represented in the report was grossly misrepresented. “The report was based on a complaint issued by a complainant who got to name a handful of individuals that they interviewed, a handful of a population of 240 band members and a handful of a population of 4,000 alumni.”
Waters also hinted at a return to the band in the future saying “Our students deserve it. Our alumni deserve it. The fans in Columbus deserve it. This has certainly been a traumatic experience for my family and for me and for our friends. The next steps forward, I'm not entirely sure of. I do know that when one door closes another one does indeed open. But I hope the door that closes on me at Ohio State does reopen so that we can move through this together."