Letter to the editor:
I completely and wholeheartedly support both President Michael Drake for firing Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters and the OSU Board of Trustees for declining to meet with him to discuss reinstatement. This was surely a tough decision because Waters has devoted much of his life to OSU, but it was the correct decision if we truly believe in putting students first.
Notwithstanding all the other elements – the nicknames, the “Midnight Ramp” tradition, the sexualized culture – all one has to do is listen to the audiotape of Waters intimidating and verbally abusing a student to realize the university needed to separate itself from this rogue instructor.
We should all remember that participating in the OSUMB is an academic class. According to its website, students in the band enroll in Music 2205.01 and receive academic credit. Of course, even if it were an extracurricular activity, this would still not excuse the sort of behavior Waters engaged in, which was caught on tape.
And even if sympathizers suggest that Waters was set-up by the student, it must have been common knowledge – and perhaps prior experience – that Waters verbally abuses students. We should be thanking this student for having the courage to document what happened behind closed doors.
I am astonished that Waters has the audacity to hope for his job back and is considering suing the university. I have taught at OSU for more than 20 years, and I hope I have established a positive reputation for myself over those years. But I have to say that if I ever, even once, verbally abused a student, I would expect to be fired on the spot, and I would hope the university would help me get some treatment.
Finally, I know many students who are currently in the marching band, and they are all supporting their former director. I understand and applaud this. Waters has given his career to the Ohio State University and deserves our support. He does not, however, deserve his job back. Firing him was the right thing to do, because the world Waters thought he lived in – where it is OK to intimidate and bully students – is not the world we wish to create here at OSU, and his firing is completely in alignment with the core university value of putting students first.
Executive Director of Combined ESL Programs
Department of Teaching and Learning
College of Education and Human Ecology