Lawyers for former Ohio State marching band director Jon Waters submitted a letter as evidence from the director of the School of Music, Richard Blatti, in which he said he was unaware of the decision to fire Waters.
In addition, the lawyers filed a memorandum on Wednesday asking for the court to allow evidence concerning the Board of Trustees in Waters’ lawsuit against the university.
In the letter, which was addressed to Waters’ parents and written in September 2014 — two months after Waters was fired — Blatti criticized the decision to fire Waters.
“The shocking decisions made in July were done without my knowledge, or even my input, without valuing or even reading my most recent evaluations of Jon’s work, and most disappointing, without any other information than a report we all know now is filled with error, omission, even rumors,” Blatti wrote. “To say I am appalled is a gross understatement and does not describe my feelings of frustration, helplessness, and anger.”
The memorandum, filed by Waters’ attorney David Axelrod, argued that the court should allow an expanded scope of discovery for the case, which would “explicitly include decisions made by the Board of Trustees, and communications by and to members of the Board of Trustees concerning the termination of Mr. Waters’ employment,” the memo said.
Additionally, the memo asked for the period of discovery to be expanded by two months, which would provide more time for Waters’ lawyers to “allow reasonable discovery.” The original deadline was set for Sept. 1.
The memo asked for the period of discovery to be extended for an additional two months, through Nov. 1.
The letter from Blatti was handwritten on three sheets of paper and mailed to Waters’ parents, and in it the director said he felt as if his “actions and words have been heavily scrutinized” and added that his laptop had been “removed from (his) office and its contents studied.”
Blatti’s letter was accompanied by a legal declaration by John B. Waters, Jon Waters’ father, which stated that John Waters knew Blatti since his son was a graduate assistant. The declaration also said John Waters received the letter, and although he had not discussed it with Blatti himself, his son has discussed it and Blatti acknowledged having written it.
In the letter, Blatti wrote that he still considered Jon Waters his student, and reminisced about having him as a freshman in symphonic band, “a talented, motivated, and amiable kid eager to begin his musical career.”
He continued to write about his frustration with the Board of Trustees and the university in general.
“My attempts to access the ‘Powers to Be’ have been unsuccessful and, despite my own threat to resign over the way this has been handled, I have been summarily ignored,” Blatti wrote. “It’s as if the Board answers to no one and the days of faculty governance are all in the past.”
Blatti concluded his letter with an apology to the Waters family, as well as a promise to continue to support Jon Waters.
“All I can offer is my most profound apologies for a university being led astray right now,” Blatti wrote. “In the meantime, please know that I will do all I can to see Jon employed again, and even if it is not here at the university he once loved, I know he will find his stride and once again establish himself as the successful leader we all know him to be.”
On April 24, a federal judge decided to hear part of Jon Waters’ case against the university.
U.S. District Court Judge James Graham ruled that Jon Waters has a legal basis to sue OSU for “reverse sexual discrimination,” but threw out other complaints, which included Jon Waters’ assertion that OSU did not give him due process when he was fired.
In an emailed statement, the university said it does not see the letter as a piece of evidence that will support Waters’ gender discrimination argument.
“The only remaining claim in Mr. Waters’ lawsuit is that he was terminated because he is a man. While the letter from Dr. Blatti attached to Mr. Waters’ court filing today regarding discovery may be interesting to some, the letter says nothing about Mr. Waters’ gender or any sexual discrimination against Mr. Waters,” the statement said. “As such, it is irrelevant to the sole remaining issue of gender discrimination. Instead, Dr. Blatti’s letter only shows that he was a family friend of Mr. Waters and was reaching out to the Waters family as a friend.”
In a separate emailed statement sent by the university, Blatti said he intended his note to be one of support as a friend of the family.
“Jon Waters was my music student and I have known his family for many years. Because of that relationship, I wrote that letter in an attempt to console his parents and to offer my help to Mr. Waters in finding a job elsewhere,” Blatti said in the statement. “I never expected my personal letter would be used by Mr. Waters in this manner, and since writing that letter I have more understanding of the reasoning behind the University’s decision and the process behind it.”
Waters has sued for a minimum of $1 million in compensatory damages, in addition to seeking punitive damages, attorney fees and reinstatement.
Jon Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month long investigation by the university found that the marching band had a “sexualized culture.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated May 6 with statements from Ohio State and Richard Blatti.