The Washington Post

‘Sexualized culture’ cited in firing of Ohio State marching band director

Ohio State fired the director of its popular marching band for allowing what the school President Michael Drake termed “an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the band, creating a hostile environment for students.”

John Waters had been the band’s director since 2012, when he was promoted from the interim job. Waters was widely praised for the band’s innovative routines, including a Michael Jackson moonwalk and a tribute to Hollywood that featured a naval battle. But Ohio State determined that Waters “failed to eliminate the sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.”

In May, a parent of one of the band members approached school officials with concerns that her child had been sworn to secrecy about inappropriate rituals. Ohio State launched an investigation, and today it released its report. The report can be found here, but readers are warned that it contains quite a lot of graphic language.

The parent said she had heard about an annual ritual in which band members marched across the football field in their underwear, under the supervision of Waters, among others. In its report, Ohio State confirmed that such a ritual, called “Midnight Ramp,” existed, and it also discovered many other common practices, such as bestowing nicknames, altering lyrics to songs and demanding that new members perform “tricks.” All of which sounds like fairly standard stuff, but in every instance, the report details an insistence on highly sexual and/or vulgar content.

Some of the examples cited in the report that can be published here include:

Multiple witnesses provided similar descriptions of students stripping down to their underwear and entering the stadium through the ramp. Two witnesses indicated that a few Band members get completely naked. According to one female witness, more senior members of the Band warn new members to wear comfortable (fuller coverage) underwear before Midnight Ramp. She also stated that female members have gone shopping together at Victoria’s Secret to buy underwear for the event. …

When asked to estimate how many current nicknames are sexual or offensive, Waters responded that “fifty percent” probably were “questionable.” When asked whether he thought such sexual nicknames are appropriate, Waters answered, “No.” When asked why he then tolerates such sexual nicknames, Waters replied, “Good point.” …

Two witnesses indicated that following Rookie Introductions, new Band members were made to march to the back of the bus while other students attempted to remove articles of clothing. These witnesses also stated that they had seen or heard of students being groped during the march. One male student was described to have had his pants taken down and fondled at the back of the bus after such an episode. …

The witness also stated that one physical challenge included in a midterm required new Band members to either place a condom on a banana, place a banana in his or her mouth and place a condom on it, or place a banana between a graduate assistant’s legs and place a condom on the banana. …

Multiple witnesses stated that a special newsletter named “Trip Tic” was produced by an anonymous member for away game trips. … According to most witnesses, this publication included disparaging information about members and sexually explicit content, including sexual activities of members. Two witnesses stated that some issues included females and males listed by attractiveness ratings. One witness stated that an issue included a “Marry, [expletive], Kill” list. … Most witnesses indicated that Waters banned Trip Tic in 2012 after a female student was severely berated in an article. Two witnesses stated that the female student was in a romantic relationship with the percussion instructor at the time of the article. One student stated that the only reason Waters banned Trip Tic was because the percussion instructor asked him to ban it when it had cruelly disparaged the instructor’s girlfriend.

Given the amount of Title IX and school violations (including alcohol abuse) contained in the report, Ohio State felt it had no choice but to fire Waters. Band members will also receive counseling and training in issues of sexual harassment, discrimination and violence.

Here is a video statement by OSU President Drake:

And here is a clip of the marching band in action:

Des writes for the Early Lead and the D.C. Sports Bog, scouring the Web to bring readers items of interest, both serious and amusing. He also covers fantasy football, as well as fitness topics for the MisFits.



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