Jonathan Waters Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Jonathan Waters
Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Ohio State fired band director Jonathan Waters after a two-month investigation revealed “an environment conducive to sexual harassment” within the band, according to a statement from President Michael Drake released Thursday.

Waters, who took over as band director in 2012, was ousted from his position Thursday.

In his statement, Drake addressed Waters’ termination, saying “nothing is more important than the safety of our students.”

A 23-page investigation report posted on an OSU website detailed various instances of abuse between band students and directors. Examples include an annual band practice in Ohio Stadium that Waters attended where students were expected to march in only their underwear, sexually explicit nicknames for new band members and a case where a female student was told to imitate a sexual act on laps of band members.

Columbus lawyer David Axelrod, who represents Waters, told The Columbus Dispatch that Waters is not sure yet what action he will take.

“Jonathan tried as hard as he could within the constraints upon him to change that culture. He did his absolute best,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod also told the Dispatch Waters was contacted two weeks prior to his termination by the university, which told him he could keep his job as long as he enacted a “zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.”

Axelrod did not immediately return a phone call from The Lantern Friday morning about a possible severance package for Waters.

The Dispatch was the first to report the news Thursday afternoon.

Waters was publicly discussing the band’s plans for the upcoming year as recently as last week. At a panel discussion about the band’s elaborate shows at the Columbus Metropolitan Club, he said the band will perform a “Wizard of Oz”-themed halftime show sometime this fall, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

An OSU spokesman did not immediately respond to an email Friday morning asking whether Waters has had contact with students during the last two months.

During Waters’ time as director, the band started using Apple iPads to help design and learn halftime performances. Some of these shows, including a Michael Jackson tribute show where the band formed legs that moonwalked across the field, went viral on social media.

Apple featured the marching band on an iPad Air television commercial that debuted in January. The company did not immediately return a call Friday inquiring about its relationship with the band given Waters’ termination.

The news of Waters’ firing came out roughly 14 months after two assistant cheerleading coaches were fired in May 2013. An OSU investigation had found “sufficient evidence” both men had violated the university’s Sexual Harassment Policy.

In November, head cheer coach Lenee Buchman was terminated as well for “several serious lapses of judgment and leadership,” according to an email sent to Buchman by OSU athletic director Gene Smith Nov. 22 that was obtained by The Lantern.

The October Office of Human Resources report that discovered those lapses began after a former cheerleader said Buchman had retaliated against him by kicking him off the team for reporting sexual harassment.

OSU’s Sexual Harassment Policy defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances” and “requests for sexual favors,” and includes “other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature” when, among other conditions, it creates an “intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for working, learning or living on campus.”

OSU named Ben Schreiber as the new spirit squad coach in April.


Liz Young and Logan Hickman contributed to this article.