Band director of Ohio State deserves his marching orders

As documented in a scathing 92- page investigative report, the highly trumpeted Ohio State University Marching Band has oft been marching to a different — and downright deviant — beat.

The details of the scandalous report released late last month reveal a Buckeye band culture steeped in vulgarity, sexual harassment, drunkenness, anti-Semitism and homophobia.

As a result, Ohio State President Michael Drake fired band director Jonathan Waters. Despite a growing chorus of blaring protestations, his dismissal should stick at least until a more- robust investigation led by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery is complete.

For now, all available and credible evidence indicates the university acted responsibly and justifiably in giving Waters his marching orders out of the university.


To be sure, the musical and choreographic talents of 36-year-old Waters can’t be denied. He worked his way up from a middle-school saxophonist in Elmore, Ohio, to the leader of OSU’s so-called TBDBITL — The Best Damn Band In The Land — in 2012. He has orchestrated halftime shows considered revolutionary in their precision, artistry and creativity. Some of them sizzled as Internet sensations, drawing millions of views on YouTube.

But despite rave reviews of his artistry, his supervisory responsibilities over the 225 members of his band proved to be an unmitigated flop, according to evidence compiled in the initial investigation. Consider a few of the most-damaging nuggets from the internal university probe:

Waters watched and thereby gave tacit approval to the annual “Midnight Ramp” at which band members marched across the OSU football stadium wearing underwear, lingerie or even nothing.

Waters did nothing as band members continued a tradition of creating songbooks filled with such offensive anti-Christian (“O Horny Night”), anti-Semitic (“The Hitler Song”), sexual exploitative (“Gangbang”) , homophobic (“He’s a Sweet Gay Fag”) and alcohol- promoting (“Drink Beer Chant”) lyrics.

Waters let loose an obscenity-laced rant (complete with the F-word) last fall against a drum major who had crossed him.

To those and other atrocities — including hazing acts in which band members were forced to simulate sex acts with other members — Waters’ defenders whine that he lacked sufficient time to right the program’s many wrongs. That argument falls flat as Waters not only served as band director for nearly two years, he was a former member of the band and its longstanding culture of crudity.

As OSU President Michael Drake put it, “Nothing is more important than the safety of our students. We expect every member of our community to live up to a common standard of decency and mutual respect and to adhere to university policies.”


What’s more, the eyes of the federal government are peering much more intently into inappropriate sexual exploitation and harassment on college campuses these days. President Barack Obama last spring announced a new get-tough initiative against colleges and universities that turn the other cheek in the face of sexual assault and sexual harassment incidents that create hostile environments for female students.

Ohio State, already under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for the way it handled complaints of sexual assault, cannot accept another similar stain that could threaten millions of dollars in federal funding.

Nor can the university tolerate another stain on its public image. In recent years, Ohio’s flagship public university has suffered scandals involving a head football coach blatantly violating NCAA rules and a university president who made crude and offensive comments about Roman Catholics.

Through his inaction, Waters extended that drumbeat of ignorance of rules and of demeaning conduct that is out of sync with contemporary standards of civility. Ohio State can ill afford to let that beat go on.

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