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Letter to the editor: Jonathan Waters deserved to be fired

Letter to the editor:

I completely and wholeheartedly support both President Michael Drake for firing Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters and the OSU Board of Trustees for declining to meet with him to discuss reinstatement. This was surely a tough decision because Waters has devoted much of his life to OSU, but it was the correct decision if we truly believe in putting students first.

Notwithstanding all the other elements – the nicknames, the “Midnight Ramp” tradition, the sexualized culture – all one has to do is listen to the audiotape of Waters intimidating and verbally abusing a student to realize the university needed to separate itself from this rogue instructor.

We should all remember that participating in the OSUMB is an academic class. According to its website, students in the band enroll in Music 2205.01 and receive academic credit. Of course, even if it were an extracurricular activity, this would still not excuse the sort of behavior Waters engaged in, which was caught on tape.

And even if sympathizers suggest that Waters was set-up by the student, it must have been common knowledge – and perhaps prior experience – that Waters verbally abuses students. We should be thanking this student for having the courage to document what happened behind closed doors.

I am astonished that Waters has the audacity to hope for his job back and is considering suing the university. I have taught at OSU for more than 20 years, and I hope I have established a positive reputation for myself over those years. But I have to say that if I ever, even once, verbally abused a student, I would expect to be fired on the spot, and I would hope the university would help me get some treatment.

Finally, I know many students who are currently in the marching band, and they are all supporting their former director. I understand and applaud this. Waters has given his career to the Ohio State University and deserves our support. He does not, however, deserve his job back. Firing him was the right thing to do, because the world Waters thought he lived in – where it is OK to intimidate and bully students – is not the world we wish to create here at OSU, and his firing is completely in alignment with the core university value of putting students first.

Bob Eckhart
Executive Director of Combined ESL Programs
Department of Teaching and Learning
College of Education and Human Ecology
eckhart.5@osu.edu

73 comments

  1. Yeah, sure..........

    Obviously HaHA was a first cut from OSUMB.

  2. Maybe Haha is in the band. I actually hope they change F-Night now. Even dropping it’s fine by me. I just want to play my brass while marching for my school. The slideshows where I’m told that Waters and Hoch are my new Gods and the leaders are lesser gods and if I don’t always obey them I’ll be devoured really rubbed me the wrong way. But you have to stay quiet if you want to play.

  3. Nalaya says:
    August 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    “You F****** Wh***.
    These empty long necks,
    Have lowered your guard,
    I’m gonna break right through it,
    Your Hymen.”

    These little town wh****,
    I’ve all f***** dry.
    I’ll make a brand new start of it,
    In the Marching Band.”

    I can not describe how sick and sad the thought of this makes me feel as student. I could not look at anyone in the face who knew about it and did nothing. Nor any group who thinks restoring the job of someone who knew this existed is more important than that it existed.”

    I don’t think you get it…The Glaros Report was crafted expertly to seize attention, with the hope that readers would just take it at face value. Waters didn’t know about that songbook, and the report doesn’t even claim he did. But they just left it there, with no context, in the hopes that the average uninformed reader would just lap it up. The song that you mention above has probably not been sung by a member of the marching band since the 80s. Thanks to the release of the songbook by the administration however, offensive people across the country can enjoy singing it for years to come.

  4. Anonymous One says:
    August 20, 2014 at 11:19 am

    “No, Joe R, you dolt.
    I was inferring that a staff member does not have the same protections as students, tenured faculty, or alumni.
    But way to try and spin this back to your own self focused, twisted narrative.”

    Nice ad hominem – but I’m not sure how my narrative can be “self focused.” I’ve never known anyone in the marching band; I’m more concerned about the direction of the administration, and in their mismanagement of this debacle. I donate a substantial amount of money every year to be in the President’s Club, and this will be the last year. I have no desire for my donations to help support Drake’s habit of setting the university up for costly lawsuits. If they can’t even figure out how to handle this issue, I have absolutely no faith in Drake to show any executive competency.

  5. The audio tape revealed that Jon Waters is exactly as passionate about TBDBITL as he should be. In the real world, when someone makes a mistake he needs to be educated- but when he deliberately act against the wishes of a superior, they need to be chewed out, if not fired. Only a lifelong academic would pretend otherwise.

  6. When did it become okay to secretly record a private conversation?

  7. Only one party needs to consent in Ohio, aka the recorder. But it would be illegal for someone outside the party to record them (sans a warrant). It helps to catch people lying.

  8. Sadly, the firing of Jon Waters should surprise no one. After all, it’s just another example of the Big Trends in higher education today:

    – Ignoring or denying unpleasant facts that don’t fit the PC narrative.
    – Embracing mediocrity by targeting faculty who rigorously demand excellence from students.
    – Lack of personal courage, even to the level of refusing to meet with the man being fired.

    It’s telling indeed that the only individuals who have shown any integrity through this debacle have been the undergraduates who had the guts to stand up for their band director. President Drake could learn a valuable lesson from them.

  9. Buckeye traditions

    From the manual of “Emasculated Leadership of A Big Public University”: When title IX rears its screeching head grab your cheeks and flee from the room emitting loud man screams

  10. Letter to Bob:

    It’s time for you to move on also.

  11. I am a female who made the band in 1974…The second year girls were allowed to try out. 5 females and 220 males that year. You would think it to be a ripe atmosphere for sexual harassment. Was I harassed? NEVER. Did they watch out for me? ALWAYS. Never saw or heard the songbook. My brother still arranges music and shows for the band. We know Jon. And we know that the University has made a huge mistake.

  12. This is the most ridiculous argument I have heard to date. So Urban doesn’t yell at the football team (and I am sure his language is squeaky clean, by the way)? The basketball and baseball teams are asked politely to please correct errant drills?

    Welcome to the real world, Bob. Tip: It is not the one you are living in.

  13. You are the typical stereotype OSU Prof who is bitter that Sports, Band, etc… get more press and admiration than your tenured rear end. It’s too bad that there are still so many like you in Academia. I am sure you wish you had the support Mr. Waters has. You never will.

  14. You bring up a good point, Anonymous. It seems to me that when Waters gained so much success so quickly and was hired by Gee reporting up the athletic department chain, there were some “tenured rear ends” at the college of music who did NOT have his back. I’m guessing those people were upset at how Waters was hired, titled and (dare I say?) controlled?

    Now, the Title IX people are harassing the band members. Fear and intimidation are the means which Ohio State interacts with its students in the band. That’s something that even the writer of this editorial as a member of the faculty and/or staff should be concerned with.

  15. I have been living in the real world now for about 16 years,don’t ever graduate nowhere near as much fun outside of school. I feel like the band kids Jon Waters a huge apology. He probably asked them to stop their ridiculous “traditions” and they choose not too and now like the majority of our whiny country they want a redo. Sorry folks redo’s aren’t given much when we have big boy and big girl jobs. If 1/8 of that report is true, he blew it or the band blew it for him, but he deserved to be fired. Believe it or not you cannot act like an entitled brat forever without paying for it in some fashion. Now again like the majority of the country those that caused the problem want to blame and sue someone else for their mistakes. I will leave you with a line from my daughter’s (the one that will never have a grown man make or watch her march in underwear or call her some explicit name in a “traditional” fun paper) favorite movie “Let it go”

  16. Anonymous Buckeye

    I was in the marching band in the 70s. Those disgusting songs were belted long and loud on every bus trip. The directors (and their wives) were assigned to buses as “chaperones”. And the directors sat there and let it happen. Did this sexualized environment contribute to better marching on the field? No. Did it allow men and women who were lesbian or gay to feel comfortable? Are you kidding? No!

    Title IX has strict standards. If you want federal money, you play by the rules. And those rules include not allowing a culture of sexual harassment.

    I am proud to have been a Buckeye and a member of TBDBITL. But I would not encourage my daughters to try out. And that’s kinda sad.

  17. Class0f1998 – I encourage you to check out the TBDBITL alumni report. It documents very well exactly what Waters did as band director to change the culture. (Hint- the full alumni report can be believed, unlike the Glaros report. Current-band-member-verified.) And besides, he’s not suing for wrongful termination, but for lack of due process and for treating him differently than females in a similar position. It just happens that one of his demands is his job back.

    Anonymous Buckeye – good for you for being one of our alumni. You say that the songs were belted loud on every trip? Good thing it’s no longer the 70’s. If you’d read your fellow alumni’s investigative report, it mentions that Waters didn’t tolerate it on his bus, and in my experience that wasn’t just his bus either. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we sang one of those songs on the bus – probably 2012. That’s when it was stopped on our bus. And also, based on the culture change in the past few years regarding gay marriage in society in general, isn’t it natural to assume that the same sort of progression happened in the band? What makes you think that the band would ever treat your daughters with anything but the utmost respect?

  18. Bob – thanks for your letter. It provides all the insight any person needs to see why education in America is on the decline. “Pathetic” best describes my reaction. And to think that you happily sign your name and position. We can only hope that your ability to grasp basic facts, understand relevant opinions clearly expressed by people involved, and brown-nose an incompetent administration is not indicative of professors throughout the School of Education.

  19. Ignorance.

  20. “Grow up America.”In this day and age, Jon was lucky that being fired is all he got. He knew this all was going on and “that’s a fact “and did not do anything about it. Maybe some parents are going to be doing something about him standing there and watching their “minor” family member in their underware. What about him not doing his job over sexual harassment? Those people were thrown to the lions den for abuse and if that wasn’t bad enough, Jon defended the ones who did the crime. Where were all of you when they needed your help. Alumni you said you would have helped them. You just disowned them and threw them under the bus.Shame on all of you!!!. You who believes that Jon is right. I just hope nothing in your life happens to you and you have done to you what Jon and all of you , did to them. Shame

  21. And this from a guy who abuses his colleagues because they are older and are therefore stupid as a “herd of hippos” Check it out, it’s in the NY Times. This guy should be fired himself except that he is no different from most employers (since the world decided that the Millennials need special treatment and promotions that the rest of us — who were told to pay our dues and wait patiently — never got) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/19/your-money/trying-to-make-a-case-for-age-discrimination.html

  22. Apparently it was his predecessor who used the “herding hippos” reference but Eckhart demoted older teachers, changed their performance review ratings after the fact, and made it generally uncomfortable for them to be there. The things he is alleged to have said to his older workers show an enormous lack of caring or respect for people who had devoted their working lives to the university. A classic case of playing God with other people’s lives. Mr. Eckhart, you clearly think you’ll never be discriminated against due to age but trust me, you will. I hope someone shows you the compassion you denied your workers.

    • “I hope someone shows you the compassion you denied your workers.”

      Not me, a big smack down is in order. Workplace bullies need to pay and pay now.

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