James Lang, a 2000 graduate of Ohio State, said he will not give one more dollar to the university unless they reinstate former marching band director Jonathan Waters, who was terminated last week.
“I will pull all funding from the Ohio State University,” Lang said. “I am very close to starting my Ph.D., and I know that I am not applying to Ohio State now.”
Lang is one of many OSU alumni who gathered to show support for Waters at a voluntary practice for those hoping to make the band Wednesday night. Signs were passed out containing four white horizontal stripes on a black background. Each stripe contained one word of the phrase, “We stand with Jon Waters” in a red, capitalized font.
Waters was fired after a 23-page report from a two-month investigation determined the band’s culture was “an environment conducive to sexual harassment,” according to a released statement from President Michael Drake last week. It concluded that Waters was either aware of, or reasonably should have been aware of, the “sexual” culture but didn’t do enough to address it or prevent it from happening.
Examples listed in the report include an annual band practice in Ohio Stadium that Waters attended where students were expected to march in only their underwear, sexually explicit nicknames that were given to new band members and a case where a female student was told to imitate a sexual act on laps of band members.
Lang said Waters was a band member at the same time he was and became a graduate assistant during Lang’s senior year.
“He was a leader, and kids looked up to him. He’s touched the lives of thousands of students, and we are here to support that,” Lang said.
Alex Marras, a 2011 graduate and former C-Row trumpet, said he didn’t think Waters had enough time to change traditions that existed decades before Waters became head director in 2012.
Marras said Waters worked to change the band’s culture for the better when he was an assistant director during Marras’ time in the band.
Although he said he wished not to elaborate, Marras said there was one tradition in particular Waters “changed drastically” by “not allowing people to be around the stadium where they previously would have been.”
Marras also said not all rookie names were sexual. He said his name was “Goose.”
Mike Constantine, creator of the Facebook page that organized the gathering, said the event was mainly to show support for Waters and to help him clear his name. Constantine said Waters is his best friend, former neighbor and the godfather to his youngest son.
“This show of support from the community at Ohio State and across the country have really helped with (Waters and his family’s) spirits and have shown them how much people really care about them,” Constantine said.
Also sitting among the crowd was Fred Deiderich, father to second-year student Frederick Deiderich, who was in the marching band last year. Fred Deiderich said he and his wife were really disappointed by the situation and didn’t feel the investigation was a fair representation of what the band culture is really like.
“He did not deserve to be fired,” Fred Diederich said. “I think they (OSU) are going to need to give him his job back or they are going to have a lot of upset fans and alumni that they are going to lose the support of.”
Despite Waters’ termination, Fred Diederich said his son plans to try out for the band again this year.
OSU has been relatively mum on the situation following an initial released statement from President Michael Drake on an OSU website last week.
The statement said an interim director will be named before a new head director is chosen.
OSU spokesman Gary Lewis did not respond to repeated emails regarding the search, including how soon an interim director will be named and how much the process will cost.
The statement also said former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery has been appointed to lead an independent task force that will further review the band’s culture. That task force will include representatives from Ernst & Young, which is set to conduct an investigatory review, the Sports Conflict Institute, which will conduct a separate independent review and “outside counsel” that will guide the task force on Title IX compliance.
Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972 that aims to protect against discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal funding.