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Jonathan Waters’ firing not the first under President Michael Drake to draw negative feedback

August 12, 2014

young.1693@osu.edu
Former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters speaks in an interview with The Lantern Aug. 7 at Bob Evan's. Credit: Aaron Yerian / Lantern TV Asst. sports director

Former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters speaks in an interview with The Lantern Aug. 7 at Bob Evan’s. Credit: Aaron Yerian / Lantern TV Asst. sports director

Though Ohio State has not explicitly said whether it’s considered rehiring former marching band director Jonathan Waters, if he was rehired, it wouldn’t be the first time President Michael Drake reversed a high-profile dismissal.

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.

Since then, many OSU Marching Band members, alumni, parents and fans have spoken out about their disagreement with the decision to fire Waters, taking to social media, writing letters to The Lantern’s editor and making signs stating that they “stand with Jon.”

Drake has largely been the face of OSU’s side in the matter. The day Waters was fired, he released a statement and an approximately three-minute long video about the investigation’s findings and the decision to terminate Waters. Because of this, some arguing for Waters to be rehired have addressed their opinions to him.

It’s a situation he’s likely familiar with.

In 2007, when Drake was the chancellor at University of California Irvine, Duke Law School professor Erwin Chemerinsky was hired to be the founding dean of UC Irvine’s law school. But a week after Chemerinsky signed his contract, Drake rescinded the offer. The reason why was never clearly stated, though it seems from multiple reports that it might have had to do with Chemerinsky’s liberal leanings.

Six days later, Chemerinsky was hired again after a wave of backlash that included editorials in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The response was not entirely different from the backlash over Waters’ firing.

OSU spokesman Gary Lewis did not provide comment about whether the 2007 case has been discussed in dealing with the current one, or if there has been any consideration given to rehiring Waters. In an Aug. 5 email, he noted the announcement of two interim leaders and said “the university’s focus is forward-looking and on supporting our students as we prepare for another academic year.”

Chemerinsky did not respond to emails requesting comment on the current situation at OSU in light of his experience.

But some OSU officials have voiced their support for Waters’ dismissal.

“I unequivocally support the decision to terminate the former marching band director and the measures taken to ensure that the culture of the marching band aligns with our institutional values,” said OSU Board of Trustees Chair Jeffrey Wadsworth in a statement sent to The Lantern on Aug. 4.

Archie Griffin, the alumni relations senior vice president and president and CEO of the OSU Alumni Association said he, too, supports the decision.

“Our surest path forward in resetting the culture of the band while continuing its tradition of excellence is through pursuing clear, values-based decisions that support our students,” Griffin’s statement, also sent Aug. 4, said.

Meanwhile, Waters appeared on “Today” and “Good Morning America,” as well as local news channel ABC6, on Aug. 5 to talk about his desire to be rehired and his belief that OSU’s investigation was faulty. He said he was not given enough time to change the band culture because he had only held the role since 2012.

Then on Thursday, Waters didn’t explicitly say whether he might pursue legal action against OSU in an interview with The Lantern.

“I don’t want to have to sue the university that I love,” Waters said. “I don’t want to have to take legal action. What I want to do is clear the reputations of those students and of me and of the many alums who have come before.”

He said in the interview that he hasn’t had any communication with university officials since his termination, including any conversations about getting his job back.

Lewis said Monday that the university is working on providing the band leadership employment records, interim leadership salary information and further details regarding the search for a permanent director The Lantern has requested.

A second investigation, led by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and reporting to Drake and the Board of Trustees, is planned to be completed by early October. It will assess the band culture, review OSU administrative processes and oversight and counsel the university on Title IX compliance issues.

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.

When NBC4 approached Drake with marching band-related questions over the weekend at fundraising bike-ride Pelotonia, Drake didn’t comment about whether administrators previously knew about some of the band’s traditions — as Waters has claimed — except to say officials are awaiting Montgomery’s findings.

“We’re going to wait for her information until we make a judgment. That’s why we brought her and the task (force) together,” he said.

Erin Buzuvis, a professor at the Western New England School of Law and director of its Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies and a founder of the Title IX Blog, told cleveland.com OSU likely had to fire Waters from a legal standpoint. But she added it was still a bold measure to take.

“I have enough examples of schools trying to bury those stories and this is a good example of a school being proactive,” she said.  “It did take a lot from Ohio State to air this and get it out there to show anyone who is watching they are doing the right thing and will not tolerate it.”

For now, 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.


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Comments (14)

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  1. Annoyedmous says:

    Oh, look, the (literal) 18th article on the band.
    I’m sure this will engage some thoughtful discussion this time around.
    It’s not like there are any other issues facing our campus.
    Glad The Lantern has its priorities straight.

  2. Chris Metzger says:

    I think the misplaced priorities comes not from The Lantern but from the university president who seems more interested in this than grossly inflated tuition costs, obscenely overpaid university bureaucrats (including himself), and goofy PC-ness. Unfortunately, the black eye inflicted by the new president remains a national story which The Lantern must stay on top of. There is no new organization closer to the story.

  3. MGH says:

    The Lantern is simply doing its job of reporting the news. This is fair game, and if you don’t think the band is an important issue at Ohio State, you are wrong. They bring in lots of fundraising $$ for the university to be used in many ways. Or rather, they did as of three weeks ago.

  4. ric allwood says:

    “Reasonably should have been aware” and “alleged sexual harassment” …terms used to fire Mr Waters.If Drake,Steinmetz or Wadsworth knew about this prior to the removal….they should have immediately contacted police and pressed charges to protect their students.If not ..they are culpable in the deriliction of their responsibility.Mr Waters had no recourse and no Due Process in being accused.Title IX is easy to hide behind….this whole scenario exemplifies a lack of leadership and wisdom.The students at my alma mater deserve better ….and yes,Drake is a short term appointee …hope Newton’s Third Law catches up to him some day ..

  5. 73OSUgrad says:

    Wow Annoyedmous. You would think this is the ONLY article in The Lantern.

    I agree with others that b/c this has become a national story, it must continue to be addressed at the local level. To ignore it would be outright ridiculous.

    In light of Drake’s saying today Waters would not be rehired, perhaps he should also assess the poorly conducted, two month long investigation and the staff who prepared that p-ss poor report. In the corporate world, those idiots would have been fired for failure to do a thorough job. What do you say President Drake? Will you ever trust those less than capable people again?

  6. Prez says:

    I wonder if the OSUMB will strike by not performing at home/any football games until Waters gets his job back.

    Will alumni and friends of tOSU stop donating money because they disagree with this decision?

    There seems to be plenty of leverage available if people really want Waters back. I think he has much more people in his corner than that of Dr. Drake. Right or wrong, does this new president want to become known for something so ridiculous? It did not work out well for Karen Holbrook. I am an alumnus, and have not given one cent to tOSU since football Saturdays were taken from us.

  7. Andy says:

    Archie Griffin’s reaction is very disappointing. He must have conveniently forgotten how the great Woody Hayes used to embarrass his players, which is a mater of record.

  8. Yeah, sure.......... says:

    Drake seems to make a habit of this sort of thing. At UCI he had to apologize and rehire the guy he fired because his conservative friends didn’t like the man’s political bent.
    In this case, Drake is even refusing to determine the facts, he is simply stating I did it and I’m not changing my mind, no matter what the facts are. My question is, a supposedly prestigious university of this size couldn’t find a better president that this guy? Really?

    And Prez, you will not see the OSUMB “strike”, nor would Jon Waters want that. But donations from many alumni (mine included) have dried up over this matter. I refuse to give the university money to fight the lawsuits that will now be filed, not just on behalf of Mr. Waters, but others as well. Don’t forget that Mr. Waters was not the only one who’s reputation was tarnished by this false “investigation”.

  9. fred says:

    Anyone think Waters’ chronic lying to the investigators might have played a part in his firing?

  10. Paula says:

    I agree with Fred. Waters was found to be untruthful to investigators on more than one occasion – and he did have 2 years to put a stop to this “sexualized culture.” I mean, come on – just tell the band students to knock it off while on “band time” or YOU’RE OUT – be a hard ass – plain and simple. That’s how coaches do it! I’m an alum (not a band member), and I read the entire report and was thoroughly disgusted with what’s been going on with the band while on UNIVERSITY time. These students get credit hours for band and are essentially IN CLASS when performing on the practice field, at home games, or on away trips. I’m ashamed of the embarrassment they’ve caused Ohio State. Those sexualized nicknames are inexcusable – and I don’t care if some of the female members SAID they “didn’t mind it” either – that is NOT the point because allowing this to happen is still seen as sexual harassment and a violation of Title IX. Wise up, ladies, and don’t allow yourself to be known for your “Jugs,” “Sugar Bush,” “Jewoobs,” etc. (All this is in the report – and while you’re at it, also stop doing simulated lap dances and faking orgasm for the “entertainment” of immature male band members who obviously REALLY need to go out and get REAL girlfriends instead of getting their jollies off by watching you girls do forced “Flying 69′s” on the bus.) Disgusted yet, readers? This immature crap going on on bus trips alone was middle school level ridiculousness – not befitting college students at all. Seriously, TBDBITL? It’s time for a new leadership in the band, and I, for one, am glad Pres. Drake acted swiftly, and I commend Archie Griffin for recognizing the need, too. Enough is enough.

  11. ric allwood says:

    GO BUCK$….. until we get all of the non- Ohio State educated administrators off campus ( Steinmetz,Wadsworth,Drake,Gene Smith) and give Mr Waters due process and recourse….we alumni need to stop supporting actions we don’t believe in.Take our Bucks/ Dollars elsewhere.Go Buck$$$

  12. Alumni Assoc Life Member says:

    As I indicated when he was hired by our Neo-Conservative Republican Corporate Board of Trustees
    and their political g-ds—Mr. Drake represents the most conservative, reactionary higher education (sic) institution in the California state system. He will be Ohio’s Neo-Conservative
    “Yes Man”! Furthermore, having former Ohio AG and longtime Republican operative Betty Montgomery, head an investigation at the behest of Drake & the the Board of Trustees IS
    tantamount to then U.S. AG George Mitchell investigating the President’s Senior Staff at the
    request of Pres. Richard M. Nixon!?! ——$$$$$$$$$

  13. Elizabeth '77 says:

    I am a 3rd generation Buckeye and started attending games 50 years ago with my parents, grandparents and ofher family members. In addition to the scholarship I support, I was planning to move near campus in a few years and spend time supporting the students and increasing the scholarship. No more. I will be wearing my ” We stand with Jon Waters ” tshirt to the one game I will attend this year.
    Yes, as a female and a business grad with many courses in discrimination/EEO, I am aware of harassment. I am also aware of due process and innocent until provdn guilty – including being allowed to defend charges.

  14. ralph yeamans says:

    has Michael thought he also might be through thrown under the bus without a motive

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