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Emails indicate Ohio State knew about ‘Midnight Ramp’ tradition

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band_VTA string of emails from 2009 indicate that Ohio State officials might have known about the OSU Marching Band’s “Fesler Night and Midnight Ramp” tradition several years before Jonathan Waters became the band’s director.

OSU spokesman Gary Lewis sent documentation of these emails to The Lantern Thursday morning. The emails detail correspondence between OSU Marching Band leadership, University Police and the Office of Student Judicial Affairs.

The emails address an alcohol-related incident that occurred the night of the Midnight Ramp event in 2009. The incident prompted police involvement and a meeting between the three departments to discuss the future of the tradition.

The documents also show that the band was given a key by stadium officials, granting them field access to Ohio Stadium after hours.

An OSU police captain acknowledged in one of the emails that, as a former night watch officer, he was “somewhat familiar” with some of the band’s traditions, including Midnight Ramp.

In another email, a then 27-year veteran of OSU police acknowledged that he also knew of the Midnight Ramp event.

“I knew of the tradition,” he wrote in an email to his police captain on Sept. 10, 2009. “However, it has never been an issue in the past years of alcohol abuse and we have always been notified in advance of the event. This year, we received no such notification …”

In the email, the officer also mentioned seeing evidence of alcohol consumption and made note of a “party atmosphere” at the stadium that night.

Several emails included in the documents, including one email from Waters–who was then serving as assistant director–argue against the officer’s claims, and say that no alcohol was present at the stadium.

“Please be aware that this tradition dates back to at least 1960,” Waters wrote in an email to Captain Eric Whiteside of the OSU police on Sept. 11, 2009. “It has nothing to do with alcohol, nor sneaking into the stadium.”

A member of the OSU marching band until 1999, Waters worked as a graduate assistant with the band until 2002, when he was hired as an assistant director. He acted as interim director following the retirement of director Jon Woods until 2012, when then-executive dean and vice provost of the College of Arts and Sciences Joseph Steinmetz announced Waters’ promotion to full director of the band in 2012.

In July, 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. 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. Midnight Ramp, a tradition during which students march into Ohio Stadium wearing only their underwear, was included in the report as one example of this “sexualized culture.”

According to the emails, current interim marching band director Russel Mikkelson and School of Music director Richard Blatti were aware of the marching band’s Midnight Ramp tradition.

In an Aug. 26, 2010 email to Woods, who at that time was serving as the OSU Marching Band’s director, Blatti recommended having marching band officials supervise Midnight Ramp.

“In meetings held last year … several precautions were recommended and agreed to,” Blatti wrote. “Dr. Woods and Dr. Waters must be present throughout the entire evening to provide oversight and insure the proper behavior and safety of the students. This duty must not be placed solely in the hands of a graduate assistant this year or ever again.”

In the same email, Blatti said he thought agreeing to add police presence to the event would also be a good idea.

“Last year, the OSU police offered to provide future assistance for Fesler Night,” he wrote. “I suggest that we do in fact take advantage of this offer for the safety and well being of our students, not to mention the liability of the faculty, School of Music, the College, and the University.”

David Axelrod, Waters’ attorney, said the emails show that OSU leadership had several years  before Waters was director to make changes to the marching band’s culture and traditions.

“The emails go to show what we’ve said all along: OSU leadership knew about Midnight Ramp long before Jonathan Waters became band director, and must have thought it was fine, because they did nothing to discontinue it,” Axelrod said in an email to Lantern TV on Wednesday evening. “Music School leadership ordered Jonathan to participate in it. Clearly, Jonathan was made a scapegoat to help resolve OSU’s federal Title IX investigation.”

Mikkelson, Blatti and university officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

19 comments

  1. I love my university, but god is it run by a bunch of incompetent people. Bring back Gee.

  2. So yet one more brick in the University’s fabrication crumbles, and the entire Glaros Report now lies in ruins. How do you fire someone for a “secret” escapade that you knew about, sanctioned, and oversaw all along? This entire episode just becomes more extraordinarily unbelievable by the day,. What will be next? OSU firing Urban Meyer and claiming he broke into the Shoe, together with 108,000 of his friends, and held a secret scrimmage with TTUN (with then all dressed in revealing tights)? Sometimes you just wonder what you get for a $300,000 salary these days. Clearly not much.

  3. Unlike most scandals, more and more evidence continues to be found consistent with the claims made by the accused in their own defense rather than claims made against them. So much information has been brought to light illuminating the house of cards that is the argument made in the Glaros “report” against Mr. Waters, the OSUMB, and TBDBITL Alumni. You have to have an agenda to continue believing that OSU solved any problems last July.

    Jon Waters should get his job back so that he can continue the work he began. The administration should fire those who wrote the original, and amateurish, “report.” Dr. Drake and the Board of Trustees should apologize to those who have been slandered and libeled by their alma mater. And finally, OSU should begin to solve problems that have been uncovered over the last several months rather than sacrificing one lamb while sweeping so many others under the rug.

  4. Re your article about Drake being too busy to talk to you, and in light of this one, it is no wonder Drake is unavailable. When he spoke of Kosta Karageorge last Saturday, he used the wrong first name. When Drake met with the Student Band Leadership in August, he claimed he wanted to repair the damage he had done to them, and made many promises. He snuck out of that meeting through the back door, and left all the Band students behind. Drake did not even concern himself with a student identified as considering suicide after his “message” and Glaros’ false accusations that the Band had a sexualized culture. If you want to hear the recording, it is available at westandwithjonwaters.com.

    Remember, Drake is the person who decided that Jon Waters and his family should suffer grave injustice to clear the many sexual assault violations at OSU, none of which were about the Band. He also felt it was perfectly fine to publicly and falsely throw the Pride of the Buckeyes, dedicated students who bring more positive feedback to OSU than anyone else, right under the bus in his pact with the OCR. Drake has caused considerable harm and damage to OSU and the students the he claims are “entrusted to his care.” What does he care about talking to the Lantern?

    It’s time to demand apologies to Jon Waters and the Marching Band’s current and past members. It is also time for Drake’s resignation, along with those who created this travesty. Next, OSU can reinstate Jon Waters and move forward in a very positive way.

  5. Of course they ( the administration ) knew about it.The beat goes on….go buck$$$$$$

  6. As an Alum, I cannot believe the Nonsense that This Administration CONTINUES to Hide behind and embarrass The Entire University and especially it’s Alumni, Students and Band. This “Politically Correct” attitude usually ALWAYS Bite You in the end. The “Midnight Raid” is probably something EVERY Bandsmen looks Forward To…..and WHY doesn’t someone Ask Them? It is Part of The TRADITION. Our Band didn’t get Sensational, Fabulous and World Renown by resorting to holding hands (probably lacks correctness as well) or acting like Choirboys praying the Rosary. And for What it is Worth, the Midnight Raid in Underwear is comparable to what is regularly taught in Public Speaking, Imagine Your Audience is Totally Naked and Focus On What Y-O-U are saying, NOT the Audience and with Many that shouldn’t be naked to begin with. FWIW, I was taught That at OSU……so what now, get a posse, find that Professor and behead Him? This University has really handled a Multitude of Situations POORLY over the years and the Injustice to Jon Waters has been hard to believe. All I can say is IDIOTS are Running the Asylum and that Little Crybaby that started this Whole Shenanigan should be Tarred/Feathered and run off Campus, LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG Ago. STOP the Nonsense!

  7. InterestedObserver

    So Mr. Waters was fired for doing what the previous director was told to do by the University including the precursor to Title IX compliance, police, athletics and music. Huh? Well the OSU PR department is going to have to think Out of the Box to explain this one away. Hmmm… Let the spin meisters begin.

    Perhaps one of our legal experts can explain what it means to twist words and facts to misrepresent something that purposefully harms someone…

  8. Has any one noticed the increase in the reported rapes on OSU grounds and in OSU dorms since Dr. Drake became president? Has he done enough to change the sexualized culture of OSU? Is it time to say good bye to Dr. Drake?

  9. Now is the time to fix this mess. Given the findings of the Betty Montgomery Report and evidence like this, Dr. Drake and OSU have the opportunity to reinstate Jon Waters for the 2015 season (with conditions). The alternative will only result in more people’s heads, continued loss of funding and additional embarrassment for both sides.

    I believe Dr. Drake made his decision based upon a flawed, historical report. He was coached to believe that this would all blow over in a couple days and that by firing Jon, he would be praised as a champion of Title IX and Compliance. No one walks into a job and does something like this on their own free will. Clearly, he did not have all the details, or a full understanding of the matter.

    A week before Jon’s firing, Provost Steinmetz offered Jon the opportunity to retain his position if certain conditions were met and a cultural survey was preformed(something Jon has asked for in December of 2013). Seemingly out of nowhere, OSU reversed its decision and decided to terminate Jon on July 24th. I think OSU realized its opportunity to please the Department of Education, and decided to pull the trigger. OSU gambled big on this, and figured the nature of the “Investigative Report” would result in band members/alumni cowering away and being too afraid to stand up for Jon. They picked the WORST group to do this to.

    Our Honor Defend.

  10. I want my University back. You know, the one that used to be great? The one we used to take pride in? The one from which we learned about honor, loyalty, integrity, excellence and perseverance? That University is now gone, but we have the ability and duty to take it back. Stand up, students, faculty and alumni. Take back OUR University. OUR honor defend…

  11. How about this too?

    You all are c-r-a-z-y. Go back to your lives. Waters ain’t comin’ back.

  12. “OSU ’14” has it entirely right. I assume the pseudonym “OSU ’14” is appropriately descriptive. If so, it’s encouraging that a recent grad (or maybe a grad this month, still in ’14?) can see so clearly what is going on and state it so articulately. By way of contrast, consider “How about this too?”, who apparently has no idea what integrity is about or why one should bother to stand up for it.

  13. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    Edmund Burke

    We stand with Jon Waters because he is the epitome of a good man. The Administration’s “justification” for firing him is in shambles. Their incompetence is more evident with each turn in this travesty. Let them find someone else as their scapegoat for the DoE/OCR and make a new pact. Reinstatement of Jon Waters would be the most positive thing to happen at OSU since Drake took over. He and the current and past members of TBDBITL deserve nothing less than a formal, public apology, and Jon’s return as Director of the OSUMB.

  14. These emails do not show anything new on either side. (1) Midnight ramp was not the sole reason for the firing of the band director. (2) the occurrence of Midnight Ramp was not at issue, it was the content of midnight ramp, (3) No where in the emails does it acknowledge the content of members marching midnight ramp naked (4) Mr. Blatti said in his letter they needed to go out of their way to schedule midnight ramp after the previous meeting so there was no time to go home and drink, showing that the organization did not even tacitly approve of alcohol consumption by allowing time in the schedule. (5) Along the same lines, having directors in attendance of Midnight Ramp, for a number of years, where some members did march naked does imply the tacit support of that element.

    The emails do not show OSU administrations knowledge of students marching naked or in underwear, which is what they took issue with.

    If anything, the email conversation between Mr. Waters and the police officer shows another attempt by Mr. Waters to cover up the public record.

  15. SeekTU,

    So as all of these emails were going back and forth, no one in the SOM realized Midnight Ramp was done in underware, just thought it was one more ramp practice run through at midnight ….and the police that were present, I’m sure they had no idea either.

    Let the PR spinning begin!

  16. John – Exactly

    Who in the School of Music are you accusing of knowing students marched naked? Because something happens at midnight, you are supposed to assume they are doing it in their underwear or naked? Mikkelson has already appeared on the news saying he did not know, and he was outside the circle of secrecy that the Marching Band student culture created and pledged to keep secret.

  17. Really…they kept having conversations about this event and never even asked, hey just what exactly is midnight ramp?

    How about the police and compliance officials? You know the individuals actually responsible for enforcing law and not teaching students to play tuba. They seem to be well aware of the event.

  18. SeekTU – There is no record of anyone “marching naked” in Midnight Ramp in Jon Waters’ time. The majority of students march in what they wear to practice. Besides the issue was OSU trying to paint MR as some kind of forced hazing ritual, when it is now clear it was voluntary, benign, and simply an opportunity to celebrate making it through the grueling tryout process and into the Band. The whole point is that, regardless of any he said/she said about what happened in MR, the University knew about it, authorized it, and supervised it – completely contrary to the University’s claim in the Glaros Report and subsequently.

  19. SeekTU_Buckeye
    “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” D. Patrick Moynihan

    Any opinion based on false information is, by default, invalid. You have obviously formulated an opinion based on incorrect information. And while you can state that the emails do not document that the administration knew what happened, it is my opinion that that is a weak interpretation intended only to shore up your weak and flimsy opinion.

    The Glaros “report” claims that members of the OSUMB marched naked and that some of the ladies of the band went shopping for special apparel. There is no evidence that anyone ever did it naked. I would be happy to testify in court that no one did it naked in 1983-1986. There are many willing to testify that many did buy special apparel for the event – gym shorts and tank tops.

    The Dispatch ignored the contents of the more recent, and much more balanced, Montgomery Report, which notes that participants were reminded that it was a voluntary event and that many chose not to do so. As I recall, it was even implied that Midnight Ramp was, by and large, the celebratory bonding event it is intended to be.

    The only one in this story with no clothes is the emperor.

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