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Jonathan Waters won’t get his job back, says Ohio State president

Ohio State President Michael Drake speaks about the firing of former marching band director Jonathan Waters at the Columbus Metropolitan Club. Credit: Logan Hickman / Campus editor

OSU President Michael Drake speaks about the firing of former marching band director Jonathan Waters at the Columbus Metropolitan Club.  Mike Thompson (right),  WOSU news director, interviews Drake about firing after Drake’s speech.
Credit: Logan Hickman / Campus editor

Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters will not get his job back, President Michael Drake said Wednesday.

“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 to a lunch gathering of the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

“We are the best, or among the very best universities in the world, that’s why Brenda (Drake) and I came here,” Drake said. “We have to behave like the very best university in the world.”

Drake spoke publicly for the first time since firing Waters for about 10 minutes of a roughly hour-long appearance.

Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month OSU investigation into the marching band found an environment conducive to sexual harassment. It was determined Waters was reasonably aware or should have been aware of that culture.

“Reading the 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.”

Drake said the university is prepared for any legal action Waters might take against the university during a Q-and-A period for club members following his speech.

“We have many employees and we’re prepared in every circumstance to be able to support ourselves,” Drake said.

Waters has not explicitly said if he’ll sue.

Drake said he did not meet with Waters before the termination because he was following “the proper chain of command.”

“What I received were these facts and I made a decision based on those facts,” Drake said. “(Waters) met with the provost and that was appropriate for this circumstance.”

Drake fired Waters instead of suspending him because it was time for the band to move forward, he said.

“The facts in this case showed us that there was a culture that was not in line with our requirements under Title IX, not in line with our principles, not in line with our values and we needed to make a change to move forward,” Drake said. “What we want to do is move forward with the band and to create an atmosphere that we believe will support our students in the best way possible.”

Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972 that aims to protect against discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal funding.

Corrective action was not taken against other members of the band staff because the facts of the investigation led to Waters, Drake said.

“The report had a series of facts that led us to these conclusions and they were specific and directed so we found really the direction that the facts led us,” Drake said.

Many have questioned the university’s prior knowledge of instances of the “sexualized” culture described in the report.

During an Aug. 7 interview with The Lantern, Waters said University Police unlocked Ohio Stadium and were present for “Midnight Ramp,” an event where band members annually marched in their underwear.

“I wasn’t particularly focused on what had happened in the past, I was really focused on what was before us and doing the best thing we could moving forward,” Drake said when asked about OSU’s knowledge of the event.

Waters’ supporters have taken to social media, online fundraising petitions and letters addressed to Drake demonstrating disagreement with OSU’s decision.

One letter from five female band alumnae said they didn’t feel nicknames given to them while in the band were offensive until the report made them out to be.

“For the first time, the report turns what has always been a high point in our lives into something the public sees as shameful and dirty,” the letter said.

The letter also requested a meeting with Drake to discuss their views of the report.

OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said he was unable to comment on the letter as of Wednesday morning. He said he wasn’t sure if Drake had even seen it.

The letter said the women recognized Drake’s “misfortune” of being presented the report after two weeks of starting his presidency.

Drake said his first weeks on the job were exciting and busy during Wednesday’s event.

“I used to tell people there’s a honeymoon period and I can say it felt like I wasn’t quite able to get out of the church.”


  1. Getting a good performance report must be antecedent to dismissal, ya think?

  2. Let’s get started with the coaches telling the boys not to swat each other with towels in the locker room or talk about women in a sexual way/ Then over to the art department because at least when I was in school, they taught life drawing (nude women posing) and art history is chock full of nudity and sexuality Ex: the God Pan in Greek mythology is the wild companion of the nymphs And oh my, med students… I went to a dental school fraternity party once and was made into a sandwich. And the bed races across the Oval will be banned because you know what that means!

  3. Buckeye in the West

    First response from President Drake is “double speak”. If anything, he was playing something very similar to what happened at Penn State. A president and board trying to paper over there mistakes and mistakes of the past. So far, through all of this, there has been absolutely nothing from Jon Woods. The former band director which much of the so called “culture” flourished. Dr. Droste made a statement and came out in support of Jon Waters; but again, silence from Dr. Woods.

    The more and more the people who were interviewed, in the report, condemn it. The more that band members, band alumni and OSU alumni condemn the report, the more that OSU administration is hiding in Bricker Hall. As of today, almost 12,000 people signed a petition to reinstate Dr. Waters. Also, every interview given by Dr. Waters is convincing enough that he was make progress in taking the ban in a new direction.

    Something stinks in and around, Bricker hall and it is not the Ginkgo Trees outside the Thompson Library.

    Considering Ohio “Sunshine Laws”, it seems that Dr. Drake and the Board feel they are exempt. Not only that, they feel they are exempt from the very policies and procedures which are in place, for OSU employees. hat is, to prevent an action similar that took place against Dr. Waters. Right to work or not, termination an employee is suppose to be a last resort; OSU did it as a first resort.

    Finally, more and more alumni have lost complete faith in the Board of Trustee and Dr. Drake’s leadership. More and more alumni are considering no longer contributing to the university. While the OSU leadership was trying to cover up for Title IX issues, they have unleashed a backlash and disheartened the OSU community.

    I, as an alumnus, call for the termination of Dr. Drake and a replacement of the Board of Trustees. This is where Ohio State and Penn State are similar, in both cases, alumni, faculty, students and friends have lost complete confidence in the school leadership. And in both cases, the administration was protecting themselves from their own crimes.

    Dr. Waters deserves better than this.

  4. Dr. Drakes says that “Reading the report I was profoundly disappointed.”

    Of course when one reads a police report they are frequently upset by the accused’s behavior. However, reading the trial transcript could change your mind. In this case we’ll never know.

  5. Tailgaters beware! You are next. P.C. police will be out in force.

  6. sounds exactly like our dr.drake has a bad case of double talk in his 1st 2 weeks on the job. how much our we paying this political puppet ??

  7. Waters is not a PhD, he does have two masters degrees from the university and I give him his due as an accomplished student. I recognize many alumni disagree but a fair share of us also agree the firing needed to happen. I would agree more people should also be shown the door. But Drake inherited this mess from previous administrations, Waters can try his luck in court and let’s see what happens three or four years from now. At this juncture many of us have grown indifferent to this story and are moving on. Feel free to attack my comments as I will post this and click away to focus on more important matters. The opposite of love isn’t hate it’s indifference and that is where I am with this matter, indifferent. If furiously typing your anger makes you feel better enjoy the therapy.

  8. Looks like President Drake and Trustee President Wadsworth are taking on vendors to the university who are clients of Wadsworth’s lobbyist, McBee Strategic, including Google and Oracle. Looks like Google and Oracle were being praised by Provost Steinmetz, then the university was entering into contracts with them, thus benefiting McBee Strategic. In my ethics class that’s called a conflict of interest. That’s a more fire-able offense than anything Jon Waters has done.

  9. The Board got just what they wanted … somebody willing to be their marionette. Drake can go back whence he came and leave us our band director who has actually paid the price to be a Buckeye. This tenure has Karen Holbrook written all over it. No way for any “Leader” to start and he should have the honor and respect to back down when he has been proven to have been in error. I fear for the immediate future of my beloved Alma Mater.

  10. And Drake and the boys can start taking down all the Wexner’s signage on campus.You know….the exploiters of women…the king and queen of sexy underwear.Donate big money,build buildings…..no problem…you can do what you want.What a group of hypocrites.Drake is a very phony person.We need to start riding the horse that made OSU great…that is not following the direction of the California college system.We’ll see how long the alumni tolerate your intolerance Drake!

  11. So, if I got this right, band supporters want to fire Drake, a President we hired to change the culture of good old boys network we have here on campus, for poor behavior, performance, and not living up to their expectations to tow the line for the band.
    Without having any of the knowledge of the discussions that took place behind closed doors or giving him time to actually change the culture.
    Does that argument sound familiar to anyone?

  12. In all of this time, Waters could have found other gainful employment. Dr. Drake didn’t cause the problem. The band “culture” was being investigated BEFORE Dr. Drake set foot on THE Ohio State University campus. I’ve never met Waters, Dr. Drake, OSU Trustees, etc. I’ll not judge them. Evidently, the report/investigation speaks volumes. Waters will not return as band leader–not today, not tomorrow, not next week, not ever. Move on! Lament his loss. Lament the alleged inaccuracies of the report. Lament the black eye on the OSU community. Put on your big girl and big boy drawers and move on.

  13. Drake the Mistake. Clearly he has been fully briefed by the OSU legal department on how to parse words and carefully repeat phrases that hace bee fully vetted by a team of wordsmiths. What his team of sycophants failed to explain is the First Rule of Holes: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Come back Karen, all is forgiven. Looking forward to one day reading about the large check OSU will write to Jon Waters.

  14. All you folks spouting vitriol at Drake and creating a scene in public, you’ve now pushed the victim of the sexual assault out in order to defend her case. Go check out the 10tv news report and listen to her cry and then come back and play the holier than thou act you are all so fond of… You all have gone past any measure of decorum that would allow you to retain any standing in this argument. You are embarrassing this campus even further than is necessary. Please stop.

  15. Student Code of Conduct

    If this type of behavior occurred in any other student organization, not only would the leadership be removed, but the organization itself would face sanctions and suspension. Unfortunately, Waters was caught in the crosshairs and made a scapegoat, but the band should count itself lucky that they’re even able to play this season. Why they’re receiving special treatment is up for debate.

  16. The report is flawed so the decision is flawed! I am not convinced President Drake was the right person to fill the job. We better not have another Karen Holbrook on our hands.

  17. Sounds like it’s about time to start spinning some “facts” about the new pres. He obviously cares much less about excellence and fairness than about his and his posse’s big fat wallets. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to realize that his wallet might be even fatter were he to act justly. And I’m not one of those whining underprivileged who resent anyone’s wealth. Just follow the money when craziness breaks out.

  18. Can’t wait to hear the reception Drake the Mistake gets when he’s announced at a home football game this fall. It’ll get more YouTube hits than one of TBDBITL’s halftime shows!

  19. Drake was wrong , period. He is not capable of admitting his mistake , so we all lose . What a shame , but understandable when dealing with someone like Drake.


  21. As a 1971 graduate of The Ohio State University and having read the reports on the Jon Waters, I am embarrassed and disappointed by Predident Drake’s decision making capabilities. I think this great University made a big mistake in naming Drake as it’s President.

  22. So, does that mean that he will be firing the football, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc. coaches, and those involved in running the fraternities and sororities, and other groups on campus where there is a “culture” that “disappoints” him and does not meet his expectations??

  23. I continue to be baffled that anyone can stand up and say “this report is true.”

    Read the evidence which contradicts everything in the report that can be used to support a decision to fire Jon Waters. Read the story about Jon Waters’ the glowing performance reviews.

    We have the report and we have testimonial evidence from hundreds of slandered (or is this libeled) TBDBITL Alumni. Both may be, but one must be inaccurate.

    Even if Jon can be called an “at will” employee, all the rest of the “at will” faculty and staff should now live in fear for their jobs. The administration can say anything they want to get rid of you. All they have to do is ask people who don’t like you, even if you helped them.

  24. It’s disappointing that an institution with the resources and capabilities of The Ohio State University would make rash and unthoughtful decisions on half baked information. What really smells here (aside from the fact that the guy that made the decision hasn’t been here long enough to even know that buckeyes are poisonous) is that from most reports and accounts there is a real question about whether Waters side of the story/events were included properly in the report of Betty Montgomery. I know this – having read it – there are several points Waters claims to have made that show up nowhere in that report. So if he is telling the truth about what he told Montgomery and her people then we got a report of an investigation that was either predetermined in its result or was the product of sloppy and lazy work. Neither would surprise me mind you. Of all the people in the State of Ohio that could have been hired to do that investigation ….. amazing.

  25. Drake should be worried about his job. What kind of idiot starts his new job at a major university by firing one the university’s most prominent employees, on trumped up charges… and he doesn’t even know Jon Waters. He is either socially deficient, or this is a corrupt set up.

    Waters generated $30 million for the university in the Apple iPad commercial and gets fired.

    The Schottensteins donate $10 million and get their name on an arena.

    Something is seriously wrong here. No amount of “we must move on” stonewalling is going to distract me from getting to the truth here.

  26. Alumni here, Journalism ’75, says put the pressure on Drake. He was never my choice but what say do I have except “no donations”, no hat and shirt purchases, no concert tickets in in your arena,….etc. Sing it Carmen Ohio.

  27. Don't Let Up Lantern

    Dont let up on this story Lantern. Please. Just assume as a general rule of thumb the administration doesn’t respect you and nothing is getting published in the local paper. Push the story editorial staff. Don’t be lapdogs.

  28. President “Fake” needs to get his head out of . . . the sand and realize he is only making it worse. Is he wants to be the president he should act presidential and tell the board that he is going to make it right and rehire Jon Waters. The issue is not going to go away. It will only get louder AND LOUDER!

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