Alumni group says Ohio university fired band director to placate probe

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 12, 2014 7:59 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio State University alumni group critical of the firing of a popular band director said on Friday his dismissal was a bid to appease Title IX investigators probing sexual harassment and abuse at the school.

Jon Waters was fired in July after a two-month investigation prompted by a parent's complaints concluded he failed to address or eliminate a sexually hostile environment that included traditions such as sexually explicit nicknames and band practices in underwear.

A report by alumni of Ohio State University band, known as TBDBITL or "The Best Damn Band in the Land," said the findings of the school's probe into Waters had been "overwhelmingly refuted in public in the days and weeks since its release."

The group pointed to an announcement that OSU had resolved a four-year Title IX investigation into how the school handled sexual abuse and harassment.

Title IX is a 1972 law that prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. Fifty colleges and universities are under Title IX investigation, according to an announcement in May by the U.S. Labor Department.

In a letter sent to OSU President Michael Drake on Thursday, Meena Morey Chandra, regional director with the Office for Civil Rights, part of the U.S. Department of Education, praised the university's investigation into the marching band culture.

She did not mention Waters' firing specifically, but said the speed with which the probe was started, and OSU's efforts to address sexual harassment, were appreciated.

The alumni group said Waters had been sacrificed, and it demanded his immediate reinstatement as well as an apology from the university regarding his dismissal.

It said the investigation for Title IX compliance created an atmosphere in which OSU "truly sought to demonstrate its Title IX resolve in dramatic fashion, even at the expense of due process and fundamental fairness."

In his defense, Waters has said he sought to change the band's decades-old, quasi-military culture of hazing during his 20 months as director.

He is set to perform with the alumni band during Saturday's home Ohio State game against Kent State, according to the OSU newspaper, The Lantern.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)