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Letter to the editor: Ohio State officials acted unfairly in firing marching band director

Letter to the editor:

While I do not officially represent the views of the Ohio State University Marching Band or the TBDBITL Alumni Club, I believe I can speak for a very large and unified group of  former band members and their families, friends and supporters that feel that officials from the Ohio State University have acted harshly, unfairly and without just cause in terminating its director, Jonathan Waters.

Many of us personally know Jon Waters, and many of us happen to have been former band members who have spent time under Jon’s leadership as assistant and head director. We want to state loud and clear that, while we do recognize that there are some very legitimate concerns in the university report — and those concerns can and should be rectified — we feel that the accounts of a relatively small sample size of membership included in the university’s investigation in no way accurately reflects the overall culture of the marching band and that, ultimately, the report was deeply flawed.

In addition, we feel that the report did not give proper credit to specific efforts that many of us personally witnessed Jon Waters making to ensure that legitimate concerns were addressed and that the band program continued to represent our great university in a proper and positive manner.

Going forward, we feel that, contrary to the university’s findings and recommendations, if given the proper support and tools from the school and its administration, Mr. Waters is undoubtedly the best person to continue to lead the band and to continue to work on improving any legitimate issues it may have.

We will no longer remain silent, and we sincerely hope that the university is willing to listen to our concerns about their report and subsequent actions, and that our calls for Jon Waters to be reinstated do not fall on deaf ears.

Patrick Branson
Bachelor of Arts, Ohio State University 2008
OSU Marching Band member, 2002-06


  1. You summed up perfectly what I, and so many of my fellow alumni, feel! Thank you for your well-thought reply….one can only hold out hope for the proper outcome!

  2. GO BUCKS! Very well said. You are backed by many.

  3. I don’t remember even one thing that he has done to eliminate the hazing of new band members. Can you give an example?

  4. Also, can you give any examples of anything John Woods, Paul Droste, Charlie Spohn or Jack Evans did? This stuff has been going on way too long and it’s not right! Can you admit that?

  5. Yeah, I’d also like to see more specifics as to how the report was “deeply flawed.” Otherwise it’s hard to take this as more than wounded alumni pride.

  6. You have support from Alumni Cheerleaders, also. I totally agree with your letter. Please; lets find out why former Directors are not responding to these issues. We KNOW that things have been going on for DECADES- Jon Waters is NOT responsible for YEARS of issues. I noted that you have stated that Director Waters has begun addressing these problems. How does the University expect him to solve and/or eliminate DECADES of behavior,in the one year he has been Director.The writer above- who said this is just”wounded Alumni pride”- obviously isn’t an alum nor a band member. If one of our parts is injured,we all suffer and we all need to help find solutions. Firing Jon Waters is NOT the correct solution. PLEASE don’t ask President Drake to ultimately solve this either. He has NO CLUE on Buckeye Pride! Remember, The Ohio State Marching Band IS THE PRIDE OF THE BUCKEYES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Title 9 is causing universities to really crack down on this kind of behavior and if you aren’t reporting everything that is brought to you attention you are enabling.

  8. Example? How about when the girl in Athletic band (not TBDBITL) made accusations about harassment at a basketball tournament, Jon Waters reported it to the athletic director and they agreed to suspend all parties from continued participation. Later the title IX people found that decision to be wrong because it punished the victim too. The point is that Jon did what was expected and required by reporting the issue and taking what was deemed to be proper action.

    Or how about his agreement weeks before the report to keep his job by enacting a zero tolerance policy.

    Or in the report where it was Jon that was pushing to end the midnight ramp starting in 2014. I’m pretty sure the university put a stop to jumping in mirror lake, so think about that when you or a friend jump in this year.

    The fact is that, for no other reason than to protect themselves from losing federal money (not for student safety) the president and board acted in fear and made a poor decision to let a great educator that put OSU in the national spotlight for positive reasons. This man has bled scarlet and gray for 10 years and they made him a scapegoat for a “culture”. How can one person be responsible for a “culture” that’s been around for over 100 years.
    Wake up and start thinking for yourselves!!!!

  9. Can you explain why Waters failed to properly handle and report the sexual assault of a female band member as indicated in the report? And then punished the girl who reported it to him with the same punishment as the attacker? Do you believe the report was false, or do you think this should not be a fireable offense in schools and workplaces?

  10. Clearly, we need to fire Urban Meyer for allowing football players to slap each other’s asses in the locker room. Some people feel this is “sexualized culture” and we need to launch a full university investigation on said ass-slapping. He is obviously aware of it yet continues to allow it. Logically he must be fired.

  11. Jojo, the report was flawed since it took testimony from a very small fraction of the band. If you take a small amount of people who say negative things, and completely omit the overwhelming majority that said they were never forced to do anything they were uncomfortable with, you can make someone look incredibly guilty. Plus, the report wasn’t even the result of a proper investigation. One of the nicknames listed, “Sugar Bush”, was given to a MALE student who came from a town called Sugar Bush. Yet the report listed that as a sexually indicative nickname.

  12. He has been around a WHILE. I don’t doubt that things were worse when Woods was in charge but he has had a long time to exert influence regardless. Don’t pay attention to this letter, it’s just alumni defending their nostalgia.

  13. The Ohio State University has cast judgment on the former band director which is pure crap. If an individual/or university is only to do research on a handful of past and present band members that is not a significant number whom have passed thru the doorways of TBDBITL !!! Send a questionnaire out to the masses and then take the appropriate measures necessary, until then, I feel he has been utilized as a scapegoat. If The Ohio State University is in the mood to clean house, they need to start from the top and work their way down. Please make sure to check the athletic department, the sororities & fraternities, the scholarship dorms, the medical departments as well. Every job I have had a standard operating manual, if we have become such a retentive society why are we forgetting the 1 law in the bible, Thou shall not use the LORD thy GOD in vain ? I totally am supporting Jon Waters as well as TBDBITL !!!! Wake up and appreciate what we have, and quit passing judgment until ALL facts are presented.

  14. There have already been female band members who were mentioned in the report that have come forward to say they were never interviewed (only their nicknames were used), and the report fabricated and/or exaggerated the nickname usage. This is a culture that is not just at OSU or in the band – it is societal and it has been around for ages. Jon Waters isn’t responsible for it, and tell me exactly how is he to police 225 people 24/7?? If people think he should KNOW what the band members are doing, then the same could be said for the Prez of the university as well. I guess he should know there is underage drinking going on in the dorms, in the frats and sororities. There’s (gasp!) sex going on as well — most likely unprotected. Shocker! I’m not saying what these adults were doing was right, I’m just saying this was stupid, silly, ridiculous stuff they did willingly and at the time seemed appropriate and to see it in print really makes it become shameful, dirty and sick. Who among us has not done these kinds of stupid things or said stupid things in our youth?? Give me a break. I’m so sick of political correctness and parents thinking their kid is entitled to everything, including not having to endure name calling or some sort of abuse. It’s life people – in my office there are people who swear like sailors and make snide comments left and right!! Who do I report them to?

  15. “Zero tolerance” policies are for the lazy. If the university (or any institution) is to employ zero-tolerance policies, then it doesn’t require a president, it needs only a handbook of if/then statements.

    President Drake has shown that he is a lazy man incapable of weighing risk, analyzing facts and discerning bias. It’s easy to push the NUKE button and walk away. . .it’s just not very noble.

  16. I invite all of you to follow the above link to OSU’s position on Title IX as it relates to the First Amendment.

    I’d like to highlight the following excerpt:

    “Title IX is intended to protect students from sex discrimination, not to regulate the content of speech. OCR recognizes that the offensiveness of a particular expression as perceived by some students, standing alone, is not a legally sufficient basis to establish a sexually hostile environment under Title IX. In order to establish a violation of Title IX, the harassment must be sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the education program.”

    TBDBITL is about the most “equal” organization I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone gets in through the same tryout process, everyone is expected to perform at top-notch, and represent the university with pride- whether they are male or female.

    Were the investigation to include more students, not just the offended few, it would have nullified the complaint as per the above paragraph.

  17. BuxBonz – No link there that I can see.

  18. Confused, does Google confuse you too?

  19. As a Very Proud member of the TBDBITL of 1966 , “A” Row . I was Honored to be a member of such an Amazingly talented select group , and the action taken by Drake , were uncalled for as well as be over the top .

    His mistake is going to cost us all , what a shame.

  20. Sadly kiddies I was explaining to my child that years ago I was sexually harassed in my NSA (yes folks NSA) office by someone everyone LOVED!!! Due to privacy rules no one ever knew what really happened to get this Senior FIRED and clearance revoked (my male coworkers reported him after walking in on me pinned to the desk by him). I’ve worked in HR offices where the “facts” had to be kept private while the “outsiders” jumped up and down swearing foul play. I listened to one guy lie why he was fired when I knew the truth (I wouldn’t have told I was caught stealing out of a purse either!!!). Bottom line is this, it doesn’t matter how great the band leader was and I agree the BAND is GREAT. He had rules to follow in that position and ONE complaint in certain areas is one complaint too many!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. I read the report the day it become public. The catalyst: One band member runs to mommy, and mommy complains to the university that her little darling’s feelings got hurt when they called her a poo-poo head on the playground. Sounds to me like someone was not quite ready for college to begin with. Anyway, now that the PC police are all worked up in a lather, especially at a college, good riddance to those accused, as an accusation is all it takes when the PC police come a-knockin’ since PC never tolerates due process. As for the university president, he will cover his tail at all costs. He does not want to lose his overpaid salary, mansion quarters, and status in the community that he thinks he deserves. Hopefully he will eventually focus on things that matter, say, like the cost of tuition and overpaid administrators/bureaucrats throughout the university. (Class of ’81)

  22. The firing of Jon Waters by the Ohio State University was totally unfair and unjust! All because of a “whiner” who complained to thier parents of the so-called “mistreatment ” by the current members of the TBDBITL and goes to the President of the University office to complain about it and costing him his job by firing him?!? FYI this is NOT a high school band this is a UNIVERSITY marching band where the common age of the band members are between 18 to 27 years old! TBDBITL has a outstanding tradition that makes them one of the top college bands in the nation unlike another band from Northern California who always getting into trouble where ever they go ( they’re the ones who has that freaky looking tree as thier mascot). Hope the university reconsiders this heinous mistake of the unjust firing of Jon Waters and reinstate him in the position of the director of TBDBITL.

  23. Great Letter! This middle age Columbus Mom hopes that the University will reinstate Jon. For those who think that the band has a questionable culture, spend a few days on campus. Then you will recall what college was like when we ALL spent time in the charged atmosphere. Jon was thrown under the bus (the words of a CBS Morning Anchor today) and hopefully he can be ‘brought back to life’ before anymore time is wasted. Come on President Drake, do the right thing.

  24. Thanks for the good letter, Pat. Bring back Jon Waters!

  25. The “zero tolerance,” idea is absurd as is holding one individual accountable for every single action taken by every person in his organization. What kind of circular firing squad is this new president running here? Was there a culture of sophomoric behavior and juvenile antics? Probably … these are college aged people. Boorish, inappropriate, and rude are not the same as criminal and shouldn’t be treated as such. This is, by all accounts, a good, talented, and capable man and leader whose name is being dragged through the mud and whose reputation is being sullied and for what? So that a few folks with exceedingly thin skin can be mollified? The world is not black and white and decisions should not be made as if it were. This required a scalpel … not a sledge hammer. In addition, anyone who has had even a rudimentary class in leadership knows that you never, ever make dramatic changes at the beginning of a tenure; you have got to watch and learn the culture before you flex your authoritarian muscle. Guess this president missed that class. He has done nothing here to earn the kind of respect and presence needed to take such drastic action and he has painted himself, and the board, into a corner. He needs to retreat and now … admit the flaw in his action and reinstate our band leader and then, if a real and unbiased accounting of the facts merit change, they can work together to bring it about. We have already lived through one Karen Holbrook … we don’t need another.

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