For at least one evening, fans of the Ohio State University marching band wanted to forget about the ouster of Jonathan Waters , about the accusations of a lewd culture in the band. Tonight, they were there for the music. The band took the stage to perform at the Columbus Commons Downtown with the Columbus Symphony at Picnic With the Pops.
For at least one evening, fans of the Ohio State University marching band wanted to forget about the ouster of Jonathan Waters , about the accusations of a lewd culture in the band.Tonight, they were there for the music.
The band took the stage to performat the Columbus Commons Downtown with the Columbus Symphony at Picnic With the Pops.
The show had been scheduled long before the Thursday news that Ohio State had fired Waters, the director, for allowing a “sexualized” culture in the band and ignoring complaints from some students.
Butbackers of the band filled out the Columbus Commons lawn in scarlet shirts and Buckeye gear.
Their thoughts on the views were mixed: Some were disappointed by the behavior that OSU investigators reported in the band. Others were distraught that Waters was fired less than two years after he became director.
“They only gave him two years to reform,” said Neil Repke, of Upper Arlington, whose daughter Alexandra is in the band. “We were really sad.”
Waters, 38, has declined to comment, but his attorney drew attention today to what he sees as shortcomings in the Ohio State investigation.
Columbus lawyer David Axelrod wrote in a statement that Ohio State failed to say in the termination letter why Waters lost his job. He said Waters never received the findings about him after he was fired. And Axelrod said that the inquiry was based on interviews with a very small sample of the band.
“The university offered Mr. Waters an opportunity to resign rather than be fired,” Axelrod wrote. “Mr. Waters rejected that offer and intends to defend his integrity and good name.”
Earlier today, former marching-band members also talked about the situation, saying they’re trying to sort through the findings and understand what happened. Many say they see Waters as a mentor.
“From the outside, a lot of the stuff can be questionable. But I never felt that the marching band was an unsafe place for anybody, especially women,” said Chris Riggins, 33, of the East Side, who played sousaphone in the band from 2000 to 2004.
“It’s a difficult situation,” he said. “I don’t know really what the answer is, but I do not think it was firing Jon Waters.”
Recent graduates say Waters was trying to change the culture. But the culture, which investigators say included bawdy, offensive songs; sexually explicit nicknames that upperclassmen gave new members; and even poorly handled sexual-assault allegations, had been in place for a long time. It was hard to break, they say.
“Ohio State fired the person who was working the hardest to get the band’s culture to where it needs to be. It wasn’t an easy job for him, and he was facing an uphill battle, a lot of resistance from students,” said Tyler Studebaker, 25, who lives Downtown. He is a former band member who graduated last year.
The reaction from current students, alumni and fans was mixed: Some said the former band director has been made a scapegoat. Others say Ohio State University did the right thing, moving quickly to stop sexual harassment.
Many students on the OSU campus saidthey didn’t know much about the two-month investigation into the band’s “sexualized” culture, except the official statement they read in an e-mail sent university-wide.
Some were shocked and disappointed at the extent of the band members’ bad behavior.
“You don’t join the band to be treated that way,” said Robin Cottrill, 23, a fifth-year human-development and family-studies student from Reynoldsburg.
The university investigation found that students in the band routinely harassed one another and that Waters ignored complaints.
“It’s hard for him since he was the director and it was already happening,” said Robert Beitman, 20, a second-year engineering student from Westerville. “He was put in a hard spot.”
Beitman said he isn’t sure Waters should have been fired, but he thinks the band deserves sanctions.
“Hazing is a known thing to happen, but I think there’s a line between it being camaraderie vs. you’re hurting someone else,” he said. “A lot of times when you are in a large group and a certain person starts to go down a path that crosses the line, it’s easier for more people to join into that. And once the group starts, it’s very hard to get the group to stop.”
Some students were troubled by how much of the harassment was aimed at females in the band, who account for about one in five band members.
In one example of abuse from the university report, a female student in the band had been told to imitate a sexual act on the laps of other band members, including her brother.
As with many other college marching bands, women were excluded until federal Title IX laws and the Civil Rights Act banned gender discrimination.
“As a woman, it makes me feel unprotected,” Cottrill said of the revelations about how band members treated one another.
Meghan Pierce, 29, a fourth-year psychology major from the Blacklick area, said she thinks that the band will rebound from the scandal. Eventually.
“It’s still The Best Damn Band in the Land, but I do feel bad for their reputation,” she said. “ I feel bad for the individuals that may not have wanted to be part of this culture but were anyway, and their reputation is being tarnished also.