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OSU Band Alumni Push to Reverse Director’s Firing

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 12:15 PM

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Photo by Thomas Bougher/FLICKR

Controversy continues to swirl around the Ohio State's Marching Band. A group of band alumni marched on the OSU administration building. As Tom Borgerding of member station WOSU in Columbus reports, the protesters called for the reinstatement of band director Jon Waters who was fired after an investigation into sexual harassment.

About 30 protestors, some carrying signs, chanted as they entered the OSU administration building. Most of the marchers were women.

They wanted a meeting with OSU President Michael Drake. Standing in front of the president’s office, band alumna Lori Cohen said the university’s investigation does not tell the whole story.

“We find the report on which his dismissal was based to be sensationalized and a one-sided view of the organization and would like to contribute our views as women and former band members to the conversation,” Cohen said.

Drake did not meet with the protesters. He fired Waters last week for “failing to eliminate” sexual harassment among band members and preventing its recurrence. The university says it had a “duty to act” in the wake of the allegations. Title 9 of federal education law prohibits sexual harassment and the tolerance of what’s called a “hostile environment.”

But Cohen contests the university’s action.

“The use of Title 9 to argue that Waters did not take action to eliminate what the report deems ‘harassment’ is a misapplication of Title 9, the goal of which appears to have been an attempt at a legal justification for the immediate dismissal of Waters,” she said.

University investigators say students in the band were pressured to march in their underwear, sing lewd songs, and perform sexually themed stunts and given explicit nicknames.

Chad Stemm plays trombone in the alumni band. He says past incidents of sexual harassment were properly handled.

“Incidents have occurred and when they have occurred the directors have responded by suspending individuals or kicking them out,” Stemm said. “It’s not been that it’s never been addressed.”

OSU did not immediately respond to the protest. The university has called in outside help to further investigate the marching band’s “culture” and has launched a search for a new band director. 

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