Ohio State band alumni seek review of director firing, citing 'even-handed' task force report



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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The alumni club of Ohio State University's marching band said Monday that an independent review of band culture is less inflammatory than the university's internal investigation and should be used to revisit the firing of band director Jonathan Waters.

The TBDBITL Alumni Club issued its response after evaluating findings of a task force led by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and determining they were "generally even-handed."

The club is named for what fans know as "The Best Damn Band in The Land," which under Waters' leadership produced halftime shows considered revolutionary.

Waters was fired in July after university investigators found he knew about but failed to stop a "sexualized culture" of rituals. Detractors allege many of that investigation's findings were false, overblown or misrepresented.

The university stands by the investigation's findings and Waters' firing, pointing to the fact that he was an at-will employee whom revelations led them to believe could no longer effectively lead the band. Waters has filed a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit seeking reinstatement and $1 million in damages.

The alumni club said Monday there should be further exploration after new findings of the task force cited deficient university policies, oversight and funding.

The task force said an "undercurrent of inappropriate behavior" inside the band was fueled by a combination of societal pressures faced by students, unclear expectations set by band leaders and ineffective university oversight. Its investigation concluded the band's culture of excellence, hard work and positive traditions remained strong and made recommendations for improvement throughout the chain of command.

The alumni club called on the school to share the task force results with the U.S. Department of Education, which resolved an ongoing investigation into Ohio State's handling of sexual assault cases after Waters was fired.

"This should be part of an appropriate, honest, and accurate acknowledgment of university-wide issues," the group said. It added that Waters was made a "scapegoat" by the university administration "to satisfy its own Title IX compliance problems and inadequacies of administration and oversight."

Alumni contend had a task force review like Montgomery's been conducted before the 2014 marching band season, her ultimate procedural recommendations could have been reasonably implemented.

University spokesman Chris Davey said the university is in the process of responding to the findings of the task force, a panel of experts enlisted by school President Michael Drake after the firing.

"The university appreciates the comprehensive report issued by the Marching Band Culture Task Force," he said. "We are in the process of reviewing the 37 recommendations in the task force report and welcome the input of those who are interested in working with us to address the significant problems that the report identifies."

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