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Jonathan Waters’ employment file packed with praise, little criticism

Former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters speaks in an interview with The Lantern Aug. 7 at Bob Evan's. Credit: Aaron Yerian / Lantern TV Asst. sports director

Former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters speaks in an interview with The Lantern Aug. 7 at Bob Evan’s. Credit: Aaron Yerian / Lantern TV Asst. sports director

Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters got a lot of praise before he was dismissed.

Waters’ supervisors gave him mostly extraordinary performance reviews as he moved up through the ranks of the School of Music over the years, according to his employment file. The Lantern obtained the file through a public records request filed July 24 and filled Aug. 13.

Nearly all of his reviews note “exceptional” work that “exceeds expectations.” Waters moved from being a graduate teaching associate and lecturer in the school, to an assistant director of the band, to the interim director and finally into the director’s role starting February 2013.

But one letter written to an OSU human resources manager in September 2011 said an evaluation of Waters seemed to convey an opinion of how Waters was performing that didn’t match up to what professor and School of Music director Richard Blatti, who wrote the letter, had seen.

“Waters has frequently overlooked university fiscal policies and has acted irresponsibly with funds entrusted to OSUMB leadership by taxpayers and donors,” Blatti wrote. “I have observed several marching band rehearsals in the last year and find them to be lacking in effective use or time, in pacing, and in generating progress.

“Also, the band is often not responsive to Waters in terms of command … I find Waters, as a conductor, to be largely driven by what the audience wants to see, rather than what the band needs.”

Other than that, though, the employment file also includes letters of praise from school districts who worked with Waters.

“You have a special knack for working with young people,” one educator wrote to Waters in 2006.

“(Waters) made a positive impression upon the area directors and all those in attendance at the concert. More importantly he made a lasting impression on many young band members,” another high school’s band director noted in an undated letter to OSU about Waters guest-conducting at a band festival.

But then Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month OSU investigation into a complaint from a band member’s parent found “serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the marching band,” according to an OSU statement. It was found that Waters was either aware of, or reasonably should have been aware of that culture, but did not do enough to address it.

His termination letter — not initially included among the employment files OSU provided but provided after an email requesting it Aug. 13 — did not elaborate on the reasons for his firing. The letter from Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz only says that “pursuant to our conversation yesterday, we regret to inform you of your termination.”

Beyond that, the letter states Waters needs to return all university property and lists the benefits he is eligible for after his firing.

In the 2013 letter offering Waters the position of band director, Blatti listed Waters’ responsibilities, some of which seem to relate to the reasons he was later dismissed:

  • Representing OSU with integrity and professionalism
  • Upholding and protecting the band “traditions for excellence”
  • Instilling in students “the highest standard for their personal conduct, on and off the field”
  • Advocating for students’ academic needs and making sound decisions as to performance schedules
  • Working within a budget
  • Overseeing preparation and personnel decisions
  • Collaborating with School of Music faculty and staff
  • Meeting with the school’s director regularly

President Michael Drake said Wednesday Waters had to be fired.

“Reading the (OSU investigation) report I was profoundly disappointed,” Drake said. “We came to the decision that new leadership was necessary and this was necessary to ensure a safe and positive environment for our students and that means a safe and positive environment for all of our students, every one.”

In the meantime, OSU named two interim directors for the 2014-15 season. University Bands director Russel Mikkelson and associate director Scott Jones will lead the band until a permanent director is chosen.


  1. Really? Now Blatti is alluding to noncompliance in areas that were not even addressed in the ‘investigative’ report?? So which is it?

    I firmly believe that Drake acted in haste and the report was sloppy. The ‘investigators’ need to be disciplined or fired IMO for a job not-well-done, if one is to believe the several students who say they were misquoted in the report.

    As an alum (and NOT a former member of the band), I hope Waters sues and wins. His firing was an injustice.

  2. Buckeye in the West

    Apparently, Dr. Blatti has an axe to grind. Dr. Waters was director less than a few months when the letter was written to HR. It took him nearly two years, but he finally was able to get Dr. Waters terminated. A possible case of management abuse of power. There have been rumours that the administration of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences had someone else in mind for OSUMB Director and were bemused that Dr. Waters was chosen. This may explain the administration looking the other way, while the ‘sexualized culture” was going on, in earnest, under the watch of Dr. Woods.

    The Lantern may have found the smoking gun, by looking at Dr. Waters employment record. Something is not right where an employee has nothing but praise and great reviews, save one person who wields great power. Even though Dr. Waters has said he would not sue OSU, he has more than enough now to not only sue OSU but to get some of the administration fired for wrongful termination.

  3. Both evaluations/reports cannot be correct. Someone(s) ability to conduct evaluations has to be called into question. Who will it be? Who will be left standing?

    btw- Mr. Waters is in the process of working towards his Doctorate. And, Mr. Waters stated he does not WANT to sue the university. There is a difference.

  4. To The Lantern: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stay on top of this band story! You are in the ideal position — close to first-hand sources and documentation, unlike the “major” media outlets. This opportunity only comes your way maybe once in a decade. This is far bigger than tattoo-gate. Keep digging. You know there MUST be more there. Do not let the public down. (Class of ’81)

  5. I hope the Lantern does continue to stay on the story; it is a monstrous miscarriage of justice. The information gleaned from his glowing performance review that concluded in July, juxtaposed to the laughably questionable document that was issued when he was terminated do not synch at all. Ohio State human resource officers and their “investigative efforts” -that was contrary to popular belief-not started by Drake but by the man they just gave an honorary degree to-Alutto-acting president—as Drake was not here when the investigation started…..–is amateurish at best and not worthy of a 1st semester law student. Calling it a comprehensive investigation is like calling wikipedia the authority on everything-
    Their report has done significant damage to the reputation of Mr. Waters (he doesn’t hold a doctorate) as well as thousands of alumni band members as well as present day band members.
    It is regrettable that such a poorly researched, worded and executed document can ruin the reputation of so many people without being properly vetted.
    I would suggest if the university were truly concerned with sexualization -start by ridding the football games and basketball games of the increasingly present dance cheer team who have no business being associated with a once proud cheerleading squad. Their “dancing” and showing off their “assets” on the court during basketball games and in the stands during football games serves no purpose whatsoever except to titillate the males in the audience who are looking for 50 cent versions of The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. They are a disgrace to the University and to women as a whole -and certainly have no place in what the university likes to think the steeped in tradition Ohio State program represents. They are an embarrassment to themselves and to the University and do not add to the experience of football or basketball game days and they detract from a once proud and nationally recognized real cheerleading squad.

  6. Mr. Waters deserves a large settlement. I would like to wish him good luck with the wrongful termination case here.

  7. Old time Buckeye Alumni

    Ohio State. What a sad state of affairs. The HR department should be run out of town for this travesty of due process. Any assistant manager with 6 months of experience knows you don’t terminate an employee without a PIP or at least calling into question for corrective action a list of misdeeds. What an absolute disgrace.

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