New Ohio State president had short honeymoon period

Kitty McConnell

Ohio State University's new president Michael Drake spoke before a capacity crowd at the Columbus Metropolitan Club this afternoon, publicly addressing the firing of marching band director Jonathan Waters as a small protest band played OSU fight songs outside of the Columbus Athletic Club.

"We made the difficult decision that new leadership was needed," said Drake. "Based on the facts, we stand by that decision."

Drake says that the 23-page report issued by the University Office of Compliance and Integrity landed on his desk a few short weeks into his presidency. "There's a honeymoon period," quipped Drake, "and I didn't feel like I quite got out of the church."

Drake called the report "disappointing," adding that, based on the facts contained in the report, he would "not change my mind" or reinstate Waters. "What we saw was a culture," said Drake. That culture, he said, led to Waters' firing rather than a suspension or other disciplinary action for the director or his subordinates.

Drake did not meet personally with Waters during the firing process; Waters was dismissed by the provost of his department in keeping with the university's chain of command, Drake said.

Drake asserted that he is ready to move the University and the band forward in the interest of students, OSU and the wider Columbus community. "We have to behave like the very best university in the world," said Drake, generating applause from the audience of civic and business-community leaders.

His first year as OSU's 15th president will include a number of milestones, including the 125th Buckeye football season, the 25th anniversary of the Wexner Center for the Arts and the opening of OSU's newly expanded Wexner Medical Center and James Cancer Hospital in December.

WOSU interviewer Mike Thompson asked about the medical center's ability to compete with newly expanded OhioHealth and Mount Carmel Health System: "We compete with disease and suffering and ignorance," answered Drake. Drake, a doctor whose experience includes 20-plus years as a professor at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, said the challenge facing academic medical centers like OSU's is the ability to "increase quality, accessibility and affordability of medical care."

Drake lauded the university's strong partnerships with private industry and said it was among his goals to "reduce barriers to commercialization" of the research and development taking place on the OSU campus.