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Jon Waters’ ‘reverse sexual discrimination’ lawsuit dismissed by federal judge

Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters
Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Former Ohio State marching band director Jon Waters’ argument of reverse gender discrimination was dismissed by Federal Judge James Graham on Friday.

Waters filed a lawsuit in September 2014 in the U.S. District Court against OSU, University President Michael Drake and then-Provost and Executive Vice President Joseph Steinmetz. He said the university discriminated against him on the basis of gender. He also argued that OSU didn’t provide him with due process after an investigation into the band that found it had a “sexualized culture” resulted in him being fired in July 2014.

The investigation, overseen by Chris Glaros, assistant vice president for compliance operations and investigations in OSU’s Office of Compliance and Integrity, was summarized in a report that stated that Waters was aware or reasonably should have been aware of the band’s culture and did not do enough to change it.

The former director initially said he would sue for a minimum of $1 million in compensatory damages in addition to seeking punitive damages, attorney fees and reinstatement.

The dismissal of this lawsuit follows the dismissal of another lawsuit filed by Waters in the Ohio Court of Claims.

In that lawsuit, Waters accused OSU of defaming him and ruining his personal and professional reputation.

In its decision, the Court of Claims rejected Waters’ accusations, saying that the former director, who was identified by the court as a “limited-purpose public figure,” failed to prove OSU acted with “actual malice” when publishing information on Waters.

In an emailed statement, Waters said he is “studying the legal opinion and weighing (his) options accordingly.”

“I am saddened that we did not have the opportunity to present our full case to the court.  I maintain that I was indeed the catalyst for change, and I was recognized by university administrators for those efforts,” he said. “Unfortunately there seems to be no legal remedy for some injustices.  I remain steadfastly loyal to the students and alumni of the band who were so negatively impacted by this situation.

OSU said it is “most pleased” with Graham’s decision, which it described as a “thoughtful and carefully considered 36-page opinion.”

“We are gratified that he has dismissed this final claim against the university,” OSU said in an emailed statement. “Ohio State acted responsibly and appropriately to support our students. We look forward to another fall filled with outstanding performances.”

Despite reapplying for his job in January 2015, Waters was not selected for the position. In February, it was announced that Christopher Hoch, who had been serving as the band’s interim director since May 2015, would step into the position of director.

In April, Waters announced that he had accepted a band director job at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on 8/12/2016 to include a comment from Ohio State.

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