Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters got a lot of praise before he was dismissed.
Waters’ supervisors gave him mostly extraordinary performance reviews as he moved up through the ranks of the School of Music over the years, according to his employment file. The Lantern obtained the file through a public records request filed July 24 and filled Aug. 13.
Nearly all of his reviews note “exceptional” work that “exceeds expectations.” Waters moved from being a graduate teaching associate and lecturer in the school, to an assistant director of the band, to the interim director and finally into the director’s role starting February 2013.
But one letter written to an OSU human resources manager in September 2011 said an evaluation of Waters seemed to convey an opinion of how Waters was performing that didn’t match up to what professor and School of Music director Richard Blatti, who wrote the letter, had seen.
“Waters has frequently overlooked university fiscal policies and has acted irresponsibly with funds entrusted to OSUMB leadership by taxpayers and donors,” Blatti wrote. “I have observed several marching band rehearsals in the last year and find them to be lacking in effective use or time, in pacing, and in generating progress.
“Also, the band is often not responsive to Waters in terms of command … I find Waters, as a conductor, to be largely driven by what the audience wants to see, rather than what the band needs.”
Other than that, though, the employment file also includes letters of praise from school districts who worked with Waters.
“You have a special knack for working with young people,” one educator wrote to Waters in 2006.
“(Waters) made a positive impression upon the area directors and all those in attendance at the concert. More importantly he made a lasting impression on many young band members,” another high school’s band director noted in an undated letter to OSU about Waters guest-conducting at a band festival.
But then Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month OSU investigation into a complaint from a band member’s parent found “serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the marching band,” according to an OSU statement. It was found that Waters was either aware of, or reasonably should have been aware of that culture, but did not do enough to address it.
His termination letter — not initially included among the employment files OSU provided but provided after an email requesting it Aug. 13 — did not elaborate on the reasons for his firing. The letter from Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz only says that “pursuant to our conversation yesterday, we regret to inform you of your termination.”
Beyond that, the letter states Waters needs to return all university property and lists the benefits he is eligible for after his firing.
In the 2013 letter offering Waters the position of band director, Blatti listed Waters’ responsibilities, some of which seem to relate to the reasons he was later dismissed:
- Representing OSU with integrity and professionalism
- Upholding and protecting the band “traditions for excellence”
- Instilling in students “the highest standard for their personal conduct, on and off the field”
- Advocating for students’ academic needs and making sound decisions as to performance schedules
- Working within a budget
- Overseeing preparation and personnel decisions
- Collaborating with School of Music faculty and staff
- Meeting with the school’s director regularly
President Michael Drake said Wednesday Waters had to be fired.
“Reading the (OSU investigation) report I was profoundly disappointed,” Drake said. “We came to the decision that new leadership was necessary and this was necessary to ensure a safe and positive environment for our students and that means a safe and positive environment for all of our students, every one.”
In the meantime, OSU named two interim directors for the 2014-15 season. University Bands director Russel Mikkelson and associate director Scott Jones will lead the band until a permanent director is chosen.