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COLUMBUS — Ohio State University’s fired marching band director was working to fix a vulgar culture “in dire need of change” before he was dismissed last week, he said in a document released by his attorney.
The university fired Jonathan Waters last week after the two-month investigation concluded he knew about, but failed to stop, a “sexualized culture” of rituals that included students being pressured to march in their underwear and to perform sexually themed stunts that yielded often-explicit nicknames.
Waters detailed the changes he was trying to make in a seven-page document prepared when the university began investigating allegations of sexual harassment within the band. His attorney released the document Wednesday night.
In the document, Waters said that he recognized upon taking over the band 20 months earlier that aspects of its culture were “vestiges representing cultural norms from eras gone by” and that culture needed to change.
He said the band staff had begun a process of “concentrated pressure for real, lasting change within the organization,” under the belief that “the best and most permanent change occurs from within the organization.”
Attorney David Axelrod said investigators did not reference the document in their report, and the band alumni association has suggested Waters wasn’t afforded due process.
“You would think that if they wanted to be fair, they would say he did do these things but it wasn’t enough,” Axelrod said. “But that’s not what they did.”
A university spokesman said he could not immediately comment on the document submitted by Waters or its place in the investigation.
Waters’ firing has touched off a maelstrom for new Ohio State President Michael Drake, who has said the culture hostile to students that was uncovered by investigators was demeaning and unacceptable. He has enlisted former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery to lead a task force in a full review.
The band’s alumni association said its own review contradicted aspects of the university’s investigation.
“The honor and traditions of generations of members and staff of the Ohio State University Marching Band have been misrepresented, insulted and dishonored by the release of the unbalanced Investigation Report, together with attachments long predating the term of Mr. Waters as the director,” the TBDBITL Alumni Club Inc. said in a statement.
The group gets its name for the band’s nickname, “The Best Damn Band in the Land.”
“Notwithstanding the apparent longstanding concerns revealed anecdotally in the unilateral Investigation Report now released by the University, we believe that only Mr. Waters can unite the current band members, the alumni, and the University community in addressing those issues,” directors said. “No one is legitimately served by his removal.”
Waters was traveling the country raising money from alumni for Ohio State at the time of his firing, Axelrod said.