Waters Says He Tried To Change Band Culture

Fired Ohio State band director Jon Waters was working to change the marching band culture that resulted in his firing, a document released Thursday by his lawyer says as a firestorm about Waters' dismissal continues to swirl.

The attorney for Jon Waters released today a seven-page document penned by the former Ohio State University Marching Band director in which he outlined his plan to make changes to the august institution before his dismissal July 24.

Columbus attorney David Axelrod released to BSB today a copy of the document, in which Waters admits the band culture needed improvement but outlining steps already taken to change the environment and others he had planned to make in his third year in charge in 2014.

Ohio State fired Waters last week for presiding over a band that faced what it termed "serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment" even as it rocketed to national acclaim over the past two years.

Many former band members – including those used as examples in the report – have spoken out in favor of Waters, spawning a Twitter feed and website as well as fundraising effort for Waters’ defense that has already topped $15,000.

It’s all part of an outpouring of support for Waters and criticism of the Ohio State’s internal investigative report, which Axelrod and others have called flawed and incomplete.

Waters, a former member of the band who first started working for it as a graduate assistant upon his graduation in 1999, has not commented to news outlets on the situation but Axelrod has said he is considering legal action and a fight to clear his name.

In a Facebook post, Waters and his wife Molly wrote, "The events of the past few days have been the most difficult in my life and have been tremendously stressful for my family. It is through your prayers and well wishes that we are sustained and strengthened."

The university has acknowledged that many of the offending traditions have existed for many years before Waters’ hiring and also said in its 23-page report that Waters had worked to stem some of the more egregious examples but ultimately concluded that Waters should have known about what it termed a “hostile environment” yet failed to take appropriate action.

Included in Ohio State’s report were Waters’ plans to eliminate what has become the controversial “Midnight Ramp” event in which band members marched into the stadium in revealing clothing as well as his cracking down on offensive nicknames and banning the publication of a vulgar student-produced newsletter for road trips.

Waters planned to go even further in 2014, according to the newly released document.

“During the past 20 months, upon being named director of The OSU Marching and Athletic Bands and inheriting a band culture in need of dire change, I began a process with our band staff of concentrated pressure for real, lasting change within the organization,” Waters wrote. “We believe this process is one that requires steady, constant pressure, coupled with a firm approach in situations that require it.”

Waters details squad leader retreats created to discuss hazing and gender issues as well as training sessions instituted to teach members about alcohol abuse, gender equity and sexual harassment beginning in autumn 2013. Waters also had initiated plans to consult with OSU’s Office of Student Life, Office of Human Resources, The Department of Women’s Studies, the Office of Legal Affairs and external consultants to develop a “Band-specific training program for culture change within the Bands.”

“The items outlined above represent the acumen of action taken to change a negative culture that was built over many decades,” Waters concluded.

According to OSU's investigation, "the document does not change the analysis in this report."

Ohio State’s report also included two instances of sexual misconduct in the band, including a sexual assault that occurred between two band members in 2013 that resulted in the expulsion of the offending party as well as a sexual harassment claim in 2013 that included an allegation of a Title IX violation in Waters’ and Ohio State’s response to the situation.

The report also indicated that band members were often given suggestive "tricks" to perform, often related to their sexually themed nicknames, during their time in the band, though Waters denied that happened in any official capacity.

Other allegations included in Ohio State’s report were rookie tests that involved dildos and other sexually suggestive actions and quizzes; band members being forced to run from one end of the bus to the other while others groped at them as part of an initiation process; an unofficial songbook that included dirty lyrics set to popular music as well as other Big Ten fight songs; and Waters ignoring complaints about members having to change in front of other members.

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