Waters Praised In Final Job Review; Drake Holds Firm On Firing

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The Ohio State University Marching Band(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)
The Ohio State University Marching Band(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)

For the first time since the decision was made in July, Ohio State University President Michael Drake answered questions about the decision to fire the band director. And he said it’s final. The statement was at Wednesday’s Columbus Metropolitan Club meeting. Drake was met by a group of protesters, former band members.

Holding signs calling for Jon Waters’ reinstatement as band director and wearing shirts that stated “We Stand with Jon,” a dozen Ohio State University Marching Band alumni played outside the Columbus Athletic Club where Drake was set to speak at the CMC.

Band alum Dana Smith wants Drake to reconsider.

“We want what’s best for the Ohio State University family,” Smith said. “And we think what’s best is for Jon Waters to be back at the helm of the marching band.”

But their efforts seem futile.

Drake is firm in the choice to terminate Waters. He said it was a judicious decision.

“Based on the facts we stand by this decision,” Drake said. “We have to be exemplars of the best. If we are the best, or among the very best universities in the world, that’s great, and that’s why Brenda and I came here, we have to behave like the very best university in the world.”

Waters has repeatedly said he was trying to change the band’s culture, that he was making strides. And Wednesday, OSU released to the Associated Press Waters’ performance review in which Waters was praised, seven weeks before he was fired, for his “courageous” efforts to address the band’s traditions. The job review also noted Waters was tackling the issues “head-on.” The evaluation period ended before the investigation began, and it was signed about a week after the inquiry into the culture.

But some of the changes Waters listed in a seven-page report he gave officials came after the university began to look into the band.

Drake said giving Waters more time wasn’t an option given the investigation’s outcome.

“The facts in this case showed us that there was a culture that was not in line with our requirements under Title IX, not in line with our principals, not in line with our values, and we needed to make a change to move forward,” he said.

Waters supporters have called his firing a rush to judgment. Neither Waters nor his attorney David Axelrod will say if they will sue Ohio State. But Axelrod has begun to gather cases which have set Title IX precedence.

Drake said the university is prepared if there’s a lawsuit.

“In making our decision, what we looked at what were the facts of the case and to make the right decision going forward,” he said. “And we’re prepared to live with the consequences of those decisions.”

Former band members have said university officials knew about the band’s culture but turned a blind eye. Drake said he can only speculate as to whether any administrators were aware of it.

Former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery has been tapped to conduct an additional investigation into the band’s culture.