BWW Exclusive: OSU Music Alums, Teachers, Parents Sound Off on Marching Band Sex Scandal - Is Jon Waters a Scapegoat?
As BWW reported yesterday, The Ohio State University has fired Band Director Jon Waters citing "serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the Marching Band." The two month investigation and findings showed that conduct of the band and staff "is inconsistent with the University's values and Title IX requirements."
Read the full investigation report here.
Fresh off an incredible year for the OSU Marching Band which catapulted them to national success, Jon Waters is now forced to hand over his baton because of years of a "sexualized culture" for which he did nothing to stop.
Several current students and past alum are rallying together in support of Waters and The Best Damn Band In The Land. Should one man burden generations of an entire "sexualized culture"? Is Waters a scapegoat for other band directors across the country who have the same internal issues? Some, however, take the stance that Waters should serve as a lesson to other university bands across the country to stop this sexualized behavior. What is your point of view?
Although current band members have chosen not to speak out at this time, below are various former musicians who are sounding off on the scandal.
Former OSU Marching Band Musician, Drew Thompson (2010 Graduate):
Honestly - I'm shocked..it's gone on for so long and it's a part of life in every university organization that functions at that high of a level. It never boardered sexual harassment...it was all in good clean fun. Jon is a good man and has worked diligently to take that band to new heights...He has placed OSUMB in a spot to drive some serious revenue for the university - and he has created some phenomenal works on art on the field. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now.
Former OSU Classmate, Melanie Richards:
I have known Jon since we met in 1998 taking a music ed class at Ohio State. It has been a true joy to watch him rise through the OSUMB ranks to the position of head director. He has worked so hard for so long to get where he was. It saddens me that our new president, Michael Drake, is choosing this action of firing Jon as his defining moment thus far in his 3 week tenure.
Having had close friends that were in the MB in the 80's, I was fully aware of the "culture" to which they refer in the report. It went on during the tenure of Paul Droste and Jon Woods. Why does anyone think that Jon Waters could change it in 2 short years? Why now? Only because someone's mom complained. I told my son today that he had better never call me from college and tell me he wants me to complain on his behalf. Ridiculous!
I am saddened and disgusted by the actions of my beloved alma mater today. There were so many other options that could have been taken before firing Waters.
Former OSU Marching Band Musician and Retired Band Director, Dale Nawrocki (1982 Grad):
I think Waters is taking the fall for things that have been going on in colleges around the country for decades. Doesn't make it right. Doesn't mean more shouldn't have been done. But, to go to the nuclear option......... I disagree. Vehemently. I was a part of this. As a freshman and sophomore. I heard, sang, laughed.......... not proud, just being honest. These things went on long before I got there ('78). Never saw any of the things typed up (guess we were a little smarter in that way). There are hundreds of us.......maybe thousands. WE ARE ALL GUILTY! Those that participated, those that didn't speak up, those that kept it quiet. Top to bottom. My apologies to Jon and the current staff. We did this. And, it is entirely feasible that "we" did this all over the country. Blame the 60's revolution or whatever you want to, but it happened. I just don't think the nuclear option should have been initiated. "New kid on the block" tactics are Little League. This is something many of us bear responsibility for, yet one or two will bear the brunt of the responsibility, quite possibly for hundreds of schools around the country. I stand with Jon Waters. Not perfect. But, not deserving of this, either. I am sorry, Jon. God Bless.
Former OSU Graduate, Amy Spires-Rucker (1985 Piano Performance and Music Education Double Major):
I really do not appreciate the handling of this situation. Waters was already making changes. Why not, as the president, help him by giving him clear options for making the changes systematically within the band? Why has he sullied the reputation of OSU and the band by making such a knee-jerk move? The president has been there 3 weeks. And this is how he starts his term. What about all the hazing in other campus groups? What about other colleges? All kinds of traditions exist- whether they are appropriate or not. The firing of Jon Waters was the wrong course of action. What did they teach the current students about correcting mistakes, or changing a culture? Nothing. How does the firing of someone who took the band to even greater heights teach the students anything?
Former 1996 OSU Music Ed Grad, Parent and Current Music Educator (Anonymous):
As an OSU grad (MA MusEd '96) and present OSU parent, I'm appalled at what was clearly started so very long ago and what has perpetuated until now. "Tradition" is important to organizations like any large marching band, but quality leadership knows when to draw the line and teach the students the difference between tradition and reprehensible behavior. I feel for Jon and his family, and yes, this should have been addressed years ago, probably when he was a student. However, as the college-level educator charged with the safety and security of other people's children, his perspective should have been more professional than it was (as evidenced in the report, printed via the Columbus Dispatch). OSU has some hard choices to make about the rest of their band staff, and the degree to which the incredibly supportive alumni should be involved in the future. Good luck from this alum!