The Ohio State University fired the director of its acclaimed marching band on Thursday after a university investigation found he failed to address the band’s pervasive culture of sexual harassment.
Band director Jonathan Waters was dismissed after the two-month long investigation, carried out by the university’s Office of Compliance and Integrity, found that he knew or should have known about a whole slew of issues that created “a hostile environment for students.” The investigation was triggered by a complaint from a parent who was concerned about the band’s “sexualized” culture.
Among the issues the report determined Waters failed to address were an annual march through Ohio Stadium where band members stripped down to their underwear, known as “Midnight Ramp,” and a tradition of upperclassmen assigning sexually explicit nicknames to rookie band members.
Those new members were also assigned sexually explicit “tricks” to perform on command based on those nicknames, according to the report. One young woman was even assigned to mimic sex acts on the laps of the other band members, including her younger brother. The more offensive “tricks” were apparently not performed in front of staff.
The report gives examples of some of the nicknames given to rookies:
A more troubling issue with Waters’ leadership was brought up in the report, which stated that concerns had been raised about his handing of an incident where a female band member accused a male band member of sexual harassment. The university had to intervene to make sure Waters reversed a decision to exclude both band members from an upcoming trip, which could have amounted to retaliation against the accuser and thus violated Title IX. Waters did not make an effort to schedule sexual-harassment training in the wake of that incident, the report said.
Waters’ attorney, David Axelrod, told the Columbus Dispatch that his client “tried as hard as he could within the constraints imposed upon him to change that culture” and may fight the firing.
While the investigation focused on Waters as the subject of the parent’s complaint, the Dispatch reported that OSU is also planning a second, wider investigation to consider other marching band staff under Waters.
Read the university’s full report below: