John Waters, once considered a hometown hero for leading the Ohio State University band to fame and recognition for their innovative halftime shows, has been fired by the school for ignoring the hyper-sexualized culture fostered by band members.
After a two-month investigation, OSU President Michael Drake determined that Waters must be fired due to the findings, reports Laken Litman from USA Today.
The investigation began after a parent complained that students frequently sexually harassed one another and Waters was aware of it and allowed it to continue. The report revealed that the band members engage in activities such as holding an annual practice where they marching across the field in their underwear with John Waters present.
Drake, who has been president for about one month, wants to ensure that the community is held to a higher standard and follows university policy.
“Moving forward, we must abide by a zero tolerance policy at the University—both with the Marching Band and the entire campus community—for any behavior that creates a hostile culture at Ohio State. I view this as a new day and an opportunity for the Ohio State community to come together and embrace the values and behavior that have made this University great.”
Drake wants to focus on ways to help the band bond without the sexualized culture. He has appointed former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery to lead an independent task force to review the problem, reports ABC News.
This may be harder to accomplish than he realizes. According to interviews conducted with former band members, the activities have taken place since at least 2006 and probably much longer, reports Karen Farkas for website Cleveland.com.
However, many people say that the situation has been overstated. A woman in the band in 2003-2007 wrote about her personal experience in her blog:
“Never once did I feel unsafe or forced to participate in something that made me uncomfortable. I was always free to walk away. The idiot outliers were not part of mainstream OSUMB culture, and more frequently were laughed at than revered. The guys I was in the band with were some of my best friends, and fiercely protective of me. I trust them wholeheartedly.”
David Axelrod, Waters’ attorney said that Waters tried as hard as he could to try to change the culture. However, after a case of sexual harassment was reported to the school they suggested that he take a training course on sexual discrimination rules, but he never did, reports Collin Binkley from The Columbus Dispatch.
Waters served as the assistant director for the band for 10 years under Jon Woods who led the bad for 25 years prior to Waters taking over.