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Ohio State Board of Trustees refuses to discuss Jonathan Waters’ case at meeting

The Ohio State Board of Trustees said Jonathan Waters (pictured) will not be considered for reinstatement in a Friday letter. Credit: Aaron Yerian / Lantern TV Asst. sports director

The Ohio State Board of Trustees said Jonathan Waters (pictured) will not be considered for reinstatement in a Friday letter.
Credit: Aaron Yerian / Lantern TV Asst. sports director

The Ohio State Board of Trustees has refused to reinstate ousted band director Jonathan Waters or discuss his termination at an upcoming board meeting at the end of August.

“The Board of Trustees stands firmly behind the Office of University Compliance’s investigation and the university’s decision to terminate Mr. Waters,” said Board Chair Jeffrey Wadsworth in a Friday letter to Waters’ attorney.

Wadsworth’s response comes nearly a day after Waters’ attorney David Axelrod submitted a letter to the Board officially asking for Waters to be rehired. It claimed Waters was unjustly fired July 24 after the findings of a two-month investigation into the band found evidence of a sexualized culture.

Axelrod told The Lantern Friday he is disappointed but unsurprised by the Board’s letter.

“You would think that out of common decency the Board would give someone of Jonathan’s stature, who’s done so much for this university, at least an opportunity to be heard,” Axelrod said.

“It’s sad that they are basing their behavior on a report that is so deeply flawed, that no one believes it but the people who wrote it, and I’m skeptical that even those people believe. This sort of behavior is not worthy of this great university.”

Axelrod said he’s unsure if the Board’s letter will cause Waters to take legal action against OSU. He said he has not yet had a chance to discuss the letter with Waters.

Recently, though, Waters said he wanted to avoid taking legal action.

“I don’t want to have to sue the university that I love,” Waters said in an Aug. 7 interview with The Lantern. “I don’t want to have to take legal action. What I want to do is clear the reputations of those students and of me and of the many alums who have come before.”

OSU President Michael Drake, though, also said Wednesday Waters will not be rehired.

“We thought carefully about this decision and the decision that we made was that we needed to have a change in leadership to be able to change the (marching band’s) culture,” Drake said at a lunch gathering of the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

Drake said the university is prepared, however, if Waters sues.


  1. From all of the information that has been made public, I conclude the following:

    If the ‘investigative’ report (the basis upon which Drake decided to fire Waters) were submitted as a Master’s degree thesis, the student(s) who prepared it would have been flunked.

    I am utterly embarrassed by how top management at OSU has handled this situation. If they ever were to get any of my money once I pass away, that is now a moot point. Ain’t gonna happen. Ever.

  2. Catherine Scannell

    So President Drake states the university is prepared should Jon Waters decide to sue. What a sad and defeating reflection on our university and its administration as well as the board of trustees that they refuse a fair and public chance for a good and decent man to defend himself and would rather use university resources–our Ohio taxpayer dollars-to defend their poorly researched decision. I believe I speak for the vast majority of alumni who took time to read the report and study the responses of credible past and present band members who overwhelmingly support Dr, Walters. We strongly believe that he should be reinstated. As for Dr, Drake, the administration, and trustees, it speaks volumes when the high and mighty are unable to acknowledge their horrible mistake .

  3. It is not surprising -humility, thoughtfulness, careful consideration and due process are traits that these CEO’s and wannabee CEO’s of Ohio State Inc. (don’t sully the word University and what that used to stand for) possess. The trustees have no interest in the old school mission and tradition of higher education. It is all about the money and only about the money for these people. They have no vested in interest in providing a quality education, life enhancing experience for the students -let alone staff of a once proud University. Everything is for sale and everybody has a price and they will happily cut a check to Mr. Waters to make him go away- that is something they understand – Human decency and respect and loyalty mean absolutely nothing to these people. They are unable to see how much damage the amateurishly worded and vetted report that they used to destroy someone has affected so many others who were and are proud members of the band. For them to cast aspersions of a Sexualized Culture is laughable when they have no problems accepting money from and naming half the buildings on campus from a man whose former holdings and current holdings reflect the sexual commercialization of both young men and women. Mr. Wexner’s name is everywhere and he owns Victoria’s Secret and at one time owned A&F -which because of their multi-million dollar donation have their name on the new ER at University Hospitals gleaming 1b dollar facility-I hope people at least get a gift bag with a buff boy-twink to take home with them. The destruction of a once proud cheerleading squad by pairing them with the “dance team” -made up of painted up NFL cheerleader wannabees -shaking their assets among other things, wearing outfits that even Wexner’s Limited would see is shameful, degrading and discredits whatever tradition this University used to have with its Athletic Department. It is a very very sad day and a cowardly response to Mr. Water’s plea for due-process. I am afraid that OSU will always be a step behind in its increasingly futile attempt to be considered top tier in public institutions as its incompetence and unprofessional approach to this matter is indicative of where they belong.

  4. The Trustee Prresident Jeffrey Wadsworth is attempting to out run the new revelations of his double-dealing in giving plum university contracts to 12 clients of his Washington lobbyist, McBee Strategic. A decision by the Trustees based on fraudulent misrepresentation is no decision at all.

  5. The sexualized culture that has been reported is a long-standing tradition within the closed ranks of the so-called best band in the land and they have heretofore not been held accountable for such lewd and illegal behavior. As a musician, I had a great experience in my high-school marching band. When I came to OSU, I heard all of the stories of the hazing during road trips that were steeped in “tradition” and I decided to forego pursuing membership in such a group. Most of the band members who were also music majors were rude, crude, and full of themselves. I did join a social fraternity, but the minimal inconveniences that could have been called hazing were nothing more than innocent non-sexual pranks. That was nearly forty years ago. In spite of legislation and cultural pressures that have eliminated hazing in greek organizations over as many years, the OSU marching band has not been held to the same level of accountability. Too bad Waters got caught in the crossfire. But he had many opportunities to change the culture prior to assuming the role of director. Leadership within the rank and file of the band has a great deal of control, thanks to the precedent set by Eugene Weigel and Paul Droste. But nobody ever addressed the sexually-charged subculture within the band. It’s time somebody paid the piper.

  6. Oust Dr Drake he is not the caliber we need…

  7. Will be interesting to see if there are any staged protests on Gameday saturdays this fall. Am sure other Alumni will also think twice about donating to the university.

  8. Jon Waters was dto make inroads into the culture of the band – in the world we live in now -he was expected to turn around over 70 years of this culture in 2 years apparently….What did Elwood, Karen, Elwood2, and Joe as well as Droste and Woods do to stem the tide?
    The response from the Board of Trustees is typical if not expected….. when the bottom line gets affected they will begin to take notice but it will take a Wolstein or heaven forbid Wexner donation that is withheld to get them to sit up and take notice- otherwise they don’t give two hoots about the over 500k living alumni think—–the stock portfolios are what matters and when the corporation–errr–University’s bottom line starts to be in the mix -then they can hire consultants to advise them who won’t have a sense of decency or fairness -either.

  9. Alum wondering why the professors are all lemmings

    A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.

  10. Follow Wadsworth's money

    Trace Wadsworth’s McBee strategic trail of OSU contracts and you’ll see what Wall Street banks really call the shots at OSU. These trustees are puppets. The Aren’t Fox LLP and David Vaughn firms are the goon squads brought in to bully people, just like the consiglieres in the Mafia. Ohio State has been overtaken by white collar mobsters with iPads.

  11. The way to get OSU attention is to withhold contributions. As an alum., I know I will.

  12. Buckeye in the West

    Eventually, the truth will come out. The Trustees and President Drake have just opened up Ohio State to a lawsuit; a possibly hefty one at that. If there was concern about the reputation of Ohio State, because the band had a “sexualized culture”; then, what is going to happen when witness after witness, on both sides, are marched into a court room?

    Dr. Drake, and the Trustees, expects Jon Waters, members of the current band, band alumni, alumni and students to go away. They also expect that everyone will accept the flimsy report, and a second “investigation”, conducted by a former Attorney General, will show they were right. Then again, CEOs think they are always right, even if the committed wrongs (including felonies). When they are caught, then they make empty apologies. How many CEOs “apologized” for the Great Recession, killing people with their poorly made products, etc.?

    As an alumnus of Ohio State, the last thing I wanted to see was my Alma Mater be dragged through the mud, because someone had it in for Jon Waters as director of the Ohio State Marching Band. A first year law student can see all the holes in the so called “investigative report”. A report that looks like it was put together as a fraternity prank. What is worse, the so called “trustees” approved the termination. Certainly, an unprofessional, one sided report would never make it out a corporate legal department for fear of a lawsuit. Lastly, they released, said report, on to the internet which contained so called “sexually explicit” material so anyone under 18 can get at it. In some states, possessing such material would have a private citizen convicted as a sex offender. This whole affair has an air of vindictiveness of which not only did they want to get rid of Jon Waters, they wanted to destroy him, as well.

    The forthcoming lawsuit is not going to be pretty, for either side. But, Ohio State is going to have to defend every word of that report, under oath. They are going to have to prove everything they wrote is true. They are going to have to defend their action, in regards to termination. Jon Waters is going to also have to, testify, in kind, to the same allegations, also under oath. as I said, the truth will come out. But, in the process of obtaining the truth, students and alumni will be caught in the middle and Ohio State’s prestige will be drawn through the mud in the process.

    In the end, Ohio State will continue on, but a possible shell of its former self. This brings to mind the third verse of “Carmen Ohio”

    “Though age may dim our mem’ry’s store
    We’ll think of happy days of yore
    True to friend and frank to foe
    As sturdy sons of Ohio
    If on seas of care we roll
    Neath blackened sky or barren shoal
    Thoughts of thee bid darkness go
    Dear Alma Mater…OHIO!”

    Let’s hope this “darkness” swiftly passes.

  13. Be interested to see how the crowd will react if the new president is introduced at a football game. Shell of the institution I graduated from. Senior mgt. is nothing but refined bureaucrats.

  14. Drake has now become a puppet for this board … Wadsworth’s intention all along. Where Drake politically savvy he would renounce the fraudulent report openly, reinstate Waters, and dare the Board to cross him. His demonstrated lack of ability in this regard effectively leaves Wadsworth the defacto Czar of our beloved University … And his capacity to lead is demonstratively flawed. These gentleman need to put their petty agendas aside and do what is best for OSU; reinstate Waters and either offer apologies and explanations for their own behavior or resign themselves. What a terrible black eye for Ohio State and what an awful start for this new president and his. administration.

  15. “This sort of behavior is not worthy of this great university.”

    So says David Axelrod in his letter to the Board of Trustees concerning the University’s refusal to reconsider it’s action to terminate Waters.

    The quote would also very aptly apply to the band behaviors (even though underground?) that have been “part of tradition”.

    Title IX is real and has applied as the accepted standard when it became law and applies to all aspects of this great University.

    Why was the band so far behind?

  16. Buckeye in the West

    Roger Meyer, while I agree with you, the issues with the band go back long before Jon Waters took over the band. I remember seeing Midnight Ramp, when I lived in the Stadium Dorm (when there was a dorm in the west side of Ohio Stadium.) I also remeber seeing band mebers sprayed witrh fire hoses (reason, hat fell off while marching during a game). This was the 1970s and no one seemed to mind. 1974 was the peak year for the streaking craze. As for other “antics”, there have been nnumerous published, in this newspaper, over the years. As for rauchy words to OSU, and other fight songs, you cannot wlak through Ohio State, on Michigan game Saturday, without hearing the alternate lyrics to the Michigan fight song.

    The botttom line, the OSU administration was well aware of “activities” within the band, as well as external to the band. If not, then they really do live a cloistered existence in Bricfker Hall. Title IX has been around for over 40 years and the administration decided to do something about it now.

    There so called “investigative report” implies that the “culture” all happened since 2011 and that is not true. Silent, through all of this, is Dr. Jon Woods, where much of this “culture” florished during is 20+ year tenure.

    Jon Waters was chnaging the band culture, but somewhere in the OSU administration “ivory tower”, Jon Warters was not going fast enough. It is possible federal research granst were in danger, because of OSUs lax enforcement of Title IX. Jon Waters was a convenient target.

    Up and down 15th Avenue and Indianol Avenue, behind closed doors there is still hazing going on and each of those little mansions conceal their own raunchy songbooks, secret oaths and “traditions”.

    So, the band is not the only ones “behind”, so was the administration and a number of student organizations. One has to wonder when the Title IX “police” clamp down, what will it do to the over all culture of the university. I do not condone gazing and the like, but turning Ohio State into a Baylor University like campus isn’t the answer either.

  17. “Buckeye in the West”, while I did not mean to reveal my full name, I am glad to reveal that I too am a Buckeye, having served at OSU for a 50 year career (and during that time had some responsibility for Stadium Dorm). In that career time I worked with meeting various Federal and State regulatory and compliance requirements in several departments for various aspects of Federal and State support received by the University.

    Buckeye, you are correct, that Title IX has been in effect for some decades now, and its implementation has truly been challenging for many institutions to grapple with its many specific aspects. Certainly the matter of admitting women into the OUSMB was a step in that process too at OSU. There are so many aspects to the law and there is so much to deal with to achieve Title IX compliance. For example, sexual harassment in many ways can be considered similar to racism in that it can be so subtle, but can be very real! And the University must be properly responsive to those who have grievance/complaint.
    While changes can be imposed from higher administrative levels to achieve some aspects of compliance, there is also the responsibility to work tirelessly at instituting needed change at local/organizational levels too. And after all that, there is the opportunity for someone who feels “wronged” to file complaint, for which there needs to be a specifically outlined procedure to handle.
    In this case, reacting to a specific filed complaint, it seems to be irrefutable that it was also found that not enough had been done at the local/organizational level to bring matters into compliance within the band. The public argument on this seems to be “but those traditions had been in place a long time”.
    When the University determined their course to make a definitive statement about seriousness for more hastened change (and determined change in the Directorship was appropriate) it hit the sensitivities of MANY fans and former band participants who “felt little if any wrong” had been committed, and besides, “this had been going on for so long!” and, therefore, it must have been sanctioned.
    It is my guess that the University determined to make a significant statement to indicate the immediate need for changes to occur to make up for changes that had not occurred significantly enough over time. (Is University administration to be blamed for the local/organizational level not having taken steps to achieve compliance/change?)
    Underground traditions are a challenge, and I have imagined that when Mr. Waters was selected to be the Director after he himself had been a member OF the band (with all its traditions) the older guard could have felt emboldened that now we have “one of us” at the top now. And it seems that could have made change of some traditions all the more challenging.
    It is unfortunate that the change of band leadership the University determined has hit at the sensitivities of such a broad audience, but nonetheless, I sense that the University has made a bold statement to ALL aspects of the University too, that no nook or cranny is beyond the Title IX requirements regardless of popularity of the group or program.
    As you stated, Title XI has been in effect for over 40 years. For whatever reason, any changes in culture would appear to have been minimal in that period as reported thus far.

  18. I hope Waters sues Ohio State into oblivion and takes a job with the University of Michigan.

    #ReinstateJonWaters #ImpeachDrake

  19. I am appalled at the irrational behavior of OSU’s administration. Perhaps at the beginning of this mess President Drake believed he had no choice but to fire Jon Waters because, giving Dr. Drake the benefit of the doubt, he trusted the person who wrote that report. Unfortunately, for OSU, witnesses interviewed from the report have come forward to say that much of their testimony was not included in the report, specifically anything that did not support the predetermined answer someone wanted to give. Members who never felt hazed by any member of the OSUMB now feel hazed by the administration of the OSU.

    To anyone still damning TBDBITL and the OSUMB – do you still believe the report, and only the report? Hundreds of witnesses have come forward to declare that the report contains so many verifiable factual errors that the entire report must logically be dismissed. Members of TBDBITL are not circling the wagons to protect “underground traditions.” We are circling the wagons because we have been falsely accused of reprehensible behavior. A new investigation that does not start from scratch is a foolish waste of resources. OSU could give full ride scholarships to a few dozen students for the money they will waste trying to hide behind that ridiculous excuse of a report.

    The OSUMB is the LEAST sexually discriminating organization I have ever seen in my nearly 30 years in corporate America. The requirements for admission are exactly the same for every single member. Contrary to the report, members treat each other with respect. The tryout process is so difficult that every person who is issued an OSUMB uniform earned it. The people that know that best are the ones who wore that uniform.

    The outlier behavior documented in the report continues to be treated as if it were the normal every day behavior of 225 of the most talented musicians on campus. It is not reasonable to believe that in an environment the of constant sexual harassment, constant disrespectful behavior, constant lack of discipline described in the report and still put on a halftime show that requires 15+ hours per week to prepare (10 for class and 5+ to memorize music.)

    Shortly after the report was issued, members of my church caught me on the way in the door (in South Bend, IN) and asked what was going on. If the report were 100% true, there are parts that are a bit embarrassing and there are parts I would be ashamed of. I have a couple reasons to be embarrassed but not one reason to feel ashamed.

    Read the report if you like salacious details. But if you favor truth, I suggest you find a band member and find out what they think. Find one of the many reports now available through the many TV outlets in Columbus. Look at verifiable facts, which are contradicting the unverified claims of the report.

  20. Like 1965 Alum, my annual contribution to my alma mater will no longer occur until President Drake leaves. This is an embarrassment on how this was handled!

    BSME ’93

  21. I’m very disappointed in President Drakes action and the trustees in this matter. Please reinstate Jonathon Waters. He is everything Ohio State stands for. If a leadership change is needed, it is not him.
    Sally Ogg Rn/BSN

  22. John — let’s be frank: you “chose not to pursue membership” so you legitimately have no insight into the culture of the organization. I’m sorry if you regret that decision, because had you given the effort and followed the instructions to ready yourself, you would have had an amazing experience and gained a family who has nothing but respect for you. As it stands, you have nothing to offer this conversation. The Glaros report is an inaccurate farce and you need only watch the news to understand why. Furthermore, your experience from forty years ago is not relevant to this situation.

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