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.”