Jonathan Waters, the director of "The Best Damn Band in the Land" was fired Thursday after an Ohio State University investigation found that he'd allowed a "sexualized" culture to go unpunished in the school's marching band.
The OSU Marching Band has become one of the most famous bands in the country under Waters, and was even featured by the Today Show during the fall marching season. But the school's report reveals a series of disturbing traditions, several of which Waters learned (to a less sexualized extent) as an undergrad in the late 90s.
According to the report, sexualized culture involved giving students nicknames like Jewoobs ("given to a Jewish student with large breasts") and assigning new members "tricks." One member's "trick" was to sit in members' laps (including her younger brother's) and pretend to orgasm. Her nickname was Squirt. During interviews, Waters admitted that about half of the nicknames given to members were "questionable." When an official asked him why he put up with the custom he replied "good point."
Part of it is likely tradition — Waters was a sousaphone player in the OSU band from 1995-1999. At several points Waters says he didn't realize the sexual nature many of the traditions had taken on, but as a former alum of the band he knew they existed. For example: Waters said tricks were never performed in front of him and denied calling students by their nicknames (some witnesses contested this), and, from the report:
According to Waters, most tricks were on the clean side and involved singing a theme song or a fight song. He shared that his nickname as a student was “Clark Kent” and his trick was to sing the Superman theme song. Waters could not recall any sexually explicit tricks from when he was in the Band.
One student witness claimed that Waters asked the band to go “easy on the offensive nicknames," in 2012, but the practice didn't change. Waters' assistant director told the school most of the nicknames were “pretty dirty.” In reference to a songbook filled with dirty rewritings of Big Ten schools' fight songs
When asked if he had actually seen the Songbook, Waters said he had seen it as a student. He further stated that he has never seen the Songbook as a staff member. He added that he would be shocked if it was still circulated; however, he said that he is “not privy to the underground.”
Students also described a tradition called "Rookie Introductions," where a new student walks down a bus aisle as other students try to pull his or her clothes off. One student said his pants were pulled down and he was fondled during the tradition. Again, Rookie Introductions were a thing in the 90s:
According to Waters, Rookie Introductions were prevalent in the ‘90s and started to dwindle throughout the years. Waters stated that he was not aware of students’ clothes being removed since becoming Director. He said that when this behavior was prevalent in the 90’s, students may have only torn off crossbelts and berets. Waters stated that he addressed Rookie Introductions when he became Director by asking the squad leaders if they still needed to do them.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, the school told Waters two weeks ago that he could stay on if he enacted a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment. Then the report was released, and the school agreed that he hadn't done to address concerns raised by students. Waters is debating whether to appeal. “Jonathan has not decided precisely what action he will take,” his attorney David Axelrod said. “He intends to defend his good name in one way or another.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.