COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The fired director of Ohio State’s celebrated marching band said Tuesday that he wants his job back but doesn’t want to sue his beloved university, at least not now.
The school stands by its July 24 firing of Jon Waters after an investigation concluded he knew about but failed to stop a “sexualized culture” of rituals that included students marching in their underwear and performing sexually themed stunts to get explicit nicknames.
Waters, 38, told The Associated Press that he hasn’t asked Ohio State for reinstatement and for now remains focused on setting the record straight about efforts he made to change the band culture and about the investigative report, which he calls inaccurate and unbalanced. He complained that only a few band members were interviewed, that it cites behavior occurring before his leadership and that information he provided to officials was left out of the report.
Asked whether he plans to sue the school if he can’t reclaim his position, he replied: “We’re not at that point yet.”
Waters, who was an assistant director before he took over the band in 2012, denies the university’s claims that he misled investigators and didn’t properly report allegations of sexual harassment.
The latest statement from Ohio State said Waters failed to inform university officials about concerning behavior and “has yet to produce any factual examples that demonstrate any tangible attempts to change the band culture.”
Waters said university officials didn’t mention a need for change before the investigation but that he recognized it and talked with students about changing the culture and took other steps, such as added training, banning inappropriate nicknames and ending the late-night underwear march, known as Midnight Ramp, which he says included the presence of campus police.
“To say that the university was not aware of what was going on is just false,” Waters said Tuesday.
He also said that recorded audio in which he yelled at and used profanity toward a student being disciplined does not reflect his typical manner in dealing with students and that he regrets how he handled that encounter.
Marching band alumni, some current members and others have defended and praised Waters for elevating the band to national prominence with shows that were considered revolutionary and drew millions of views on YouTube. Waters says that abundance of support is evidence that the university’s report didn’t paint a full, accurate picture of the band.
He said he hopes to be part of future Ohio State discussions about shaping the band’s culture.
“I love my job, and I would love to absolutely come back to lead those students that I love, and to engage in the work that unfortunately I was not permitted to finish,” Waters told The Columbus Dispatch on Monday in his first interview since being fired.
New Ohio State President Michael Drake is enlisting former state Attorney General Betty Montgomery to lead a task force that will assess the band’s culture, allow other interested parties to share their thoughts and recommend guidance moving forward. The appointment letter from Drake to Montgomery says a report from the panel is expected within two months.