Ohio State clarifies rules of changing uniforms, hotel socializing for marching band members



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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University told federal education officials Wednesday that the school has begun designating specific rooms for changing in and out of marching band uniforms during road trips and has made other policy changes since discovering a "sexualized culture" within the band and firing its director.

The university provided the information in its first quarterly update to the U.S. Department of Education under a September settlement agreement. The pact ended a federal inquiry into the school's handling of sexual abuse cases.

Band members also are instructed under new guidelines not to change in public, including on buses or in hallways regardless of what they're wearing under their uniform, and not to socialize in other students' hotel rooms. New policies also say students can ask for personal accommodations, whenever they want, to change their uniforms.

All band members are provided a copy of the revised policy manual and are required to review and sign it.

The policy changes came after the July 24 firing of director Jonathan Waters on grounds he failed to stop a host of sexually charged band rituals, including the bestowing of sometimes explicit nicknames, partially-clad marches at Ohio Stadium, and groping games on buses.

Waters and a vocal group of his backers have disputed the findings of the university's two-month internal investigation and Waters has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking reinstatement. Waters joined the band as a student and served in a series of increasingly higher ranking positions until he was appointed director in 2012. Former Ohio attorney general Jim Petro serves on Waters' legal defense team.

Waters was known for revolutionizing the halftime shows of the band, known to fans as The Best Damn Band in the Land, using iPads to create morphing images that have gotten hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

The university noted in Wednesday's report that it has named a search committee to replace Waters. Work also continues on an independent investigation into the band culture led by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

Under another policy change, membership in the band is limited to five years for both playing members and student support staff. The band's directing staff is given the explicit right to "suspend, dismiss, or replace a band member" for reasons including poor marching and/or playing performance, poor rehearsal attitude, or overall improper behavior.

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