Ohio State President Drake Defends Jon Waters Firing

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UPDATED: Wednesday August 13, 2014 11:58 PM

"We have to hold ourselves to the highest possible standards, because we in many ways set the standard," said Ohio State University President Dr. Michael Drake.

An overflow crowd at the Columbus Metropolitan Club came to hear Dr. Michael Drake explain his decision on why the university fired popular marching band director Jon Waters.

According to Dr. Drake, he found the culture of the band to be one that would not be accepted anywhere.  "Behaviors that would not be tolerated at any unit on our campus - and I dare say - in any of your companies campus and I dare say in any of your companies," Drake explained.

The investigation - which found a "sexualized culture" in the band, including allegations of a sexual assault and sexual harassment - was based largely on interviews with four band members. There are more than 200 people in the marching band.

"Wouldn't you agree that you needed to talk to more people to get a better picture?" asked 10TV news reporter Kevin Landers.  Drake responded, "What we felt was we had the facts that came to us from the investigation those facts then describe a pattern that helped us make a decision that we needed based on what we felt was the best decision we could make to support our students."

The investigation into the band had a narrow focus in terms of time.  Investigators only looked at the band from 2013 to 21014.

Drake said he wasn't interested in what happened in the past.  "I was focused on what we had before us and making the best on what we can do going forward."

As for signing off on the firing of Waters, Dr. Drake says he knew it wasn't going to be the popular decision, but one he stands by with no hesitation of changing his mind.

Prior to the event, members of the Ohio State University Alumni Band played in support of Jon Waters and in protest of the University's decision to fire him.

"Jon Waters was changing the culture of the band.  The band knew it, the alumni knew it.  I can't believe the University couldn't see that", said alumni Dana Smith.

But according to President Michael Drake, the decision was clear.  Waters had to go because the facts showed he was not the best leader for the band.  "Reading the report, I was personally profoundly disappointed to see that there were reports found that were cultural problems in the band and needed to be addressed and we needed to move forward."

Dr. Drake says when he read that a band member claimed she was sexually assaulted and another was sexually harassed, he said one complaint is one too many.  "The facts showed us there was a culture not in line with our requirements of Title IX, not in line with our principals, not in line with our values and we needed to make a change and move forward", he said.

Waters was a wildly popular band director whose halftime shows made national news.

Since his firing, band members from the past and the present have come forward urging the university to reverse its decision.  But Dr. Drake says the University's decision stands and believes his legacy will prove he made an unpopular decision for the right reasons.

"I have always been a person who did my best to find the facts and act accordingly and appropriately with those facts and move forward I will always do that."

The man at the center of the band scandal, fired director Jon Waters, didn't use the word disappointment when 10TV asked him about Dr. Drake's comments. He did say he believes the right step would be open and honest conversation about the investigation report that threw TBDBITL's reputation into question.  

"What I'm asking for is just common decency and a listening ear. A step back from the rush to judgement we have in this case," said Waters.  

Since he broke his silence, Waters has said he doesn't believe the report took any of his work to improve the band culture into consideration. He believes the reputations of current band members, alums and his own reputation deserve to be cleared.

As for Waters' track record, 10TV obtained his personnel file. This past year's review stated he exceeded expectations, and used "courageous" efforts to address attitudes surrounding band traditions. The report also stated Waters should be commended for tackling some of the more extreme views head-on.

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