Ohio State University’s band leader, Jonathan Waters, was fired on July 24 for encouraging a sexualized culture within his marching band. The alleged sexualized culture at Ohio State is something that has been going on for decades. Band members were being given sexual nicknames, engaging in sexually oriented game play and even being made to march while clad inappropriately.
Waters, the bandleader for only two years, was able to transform his band from something that people talked about now and then to something that everybody talked about. In January, the band was featured in an Apple commercial.
Parents, students and alumni are concerned about Waters. Some support him and others believe that the university acted properly. This isn’t the first time that Ohio State has been the talk of the town or the nation. Jim Tressel, their prior football coach, was requested to leave in 2011 after it was discovered that team members sold memorabilia for cash or in exchange for tattoos. Gordon Gee, the University’s prior president, retired in 2013 after the publication of his comments about Roman Catholics. The school also terminated its cheerleading coach and two assistants due to sexual harassment allegations that same year.
Many of Waters fans considered him the best bandleader in the country. Cody Hawkins, a freshman at Ohio State, said that Jonathan Waters had done things for the band that he had never seen before. The band is nationally famous, he said, thanks to him. Hawkins agreed that some of the band’s behavior mentioned in the university’s investigative report was sexually inappropriate but, he said, in his opinion they are college students and it is part of the culture, the norm.
Bob Stevens, a band member from the 80s, is on the other side of the fence. He said that those same behaviors had been going on for decades. He agreed that Waters, as the band’s leader, should be held responsible for its behavior and be sanctioned accordingly.
Former band director, Dale Nawrocki, said Waters was being held responsible for something that had been happening in the United States for many years. As a former Ohio State student, he had also been part of that sexualized culture, just like thousands of others. He felt that firing Jonathan Walters would not solve the underlying problem. He went on to apologize to Jonathan Waters for not taking action many years ago. Firing Waters was not the answer, he said, but perhaps the school should take some responsibility and teach its students to correct their mistakes and change their own culture.
In May, a band member’s parent lodged a complaint about band members being sworn to secrecy concerning alleged objectionable behaviors. After a two-month-long investigation by Ohio State University officials, it was determined that Jonathan Waters knew about, but chose to ignore, the sexualized rituals which had permeated the band’s culture that led to his firing. The July 24 report is broken down into three parts. Part one includes the nicknames that the band members gave each other and activities described by observers. Section two describes a sexually oriented written exam given to new band members. Part three describes the marching band’s songbook, a compendium of sexually explicit collegiate songs that were sung on bus trips.
By Dennis De Rose