COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State University fired the director of its celebrated marching band on Thursday after determining he ignored a “sexualized” atmosphere of rituals including students being pressured to march in their underwear and participate in sexually themed stunts.
Jonathan Waters had led the band since 2012, and served in lesser capacities for a decade before that. His halftime shows for what’s known to fans as “The Best Damn Band in the Land” were considered revolutionary and drew millions of viewers on YouTube.
Ohio State President Michael Drake, on the job just three weeks, said in an Associated Press interview that he was “profoundly disappointed and shocked” by the findings of a two-month investigation that began before his arrival.
“This is 2014, and we respect our students as young adults,” Drake said. “We respect women, and we respect all the different people who work with us, we respect that diversity. We just had to make a square-wave change between this report, which was unacceptable, and the future, which we start today.”
The probe determined Waters knew about and failed to stop what the university called “serious cultural issues” within the band. Email and phone messages were left for Waters and the band alumni association seeking comment.
In the report, Waters denies the allegations against him – including that he texted sexual limericks to band members – and disagrees that the band’s culture is sexualized. He said the culture was evolving, while suggesting to investigators “that sexual innuendo is found in much of what college students do.”
A spokesman said the university was required to promptly perform the probe under federal Title IX sexual discrimination laws, after a parent complained band members were asked to swear secrecy oaths “about objectionable traditions and customs,” some in place well before Waters took over.