Band director wants to be reinstated

Mitch Albom discusses Ohio State's firing of its marching band director amid allegations he knew about and ignored "serious cultural issues," including sexual harassment.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State officials on Tuesday stood by their firing of the marching band director, who said he wants his job back and another chance to change the cultural issues in the unit that led to his dismissal.

The university's statement came in response to interviews in which Jonathan Waters said he wants another chance to lead the band and fix what the university had called an inappropriate "sexualized culture" of rituals.

Waters said his July 24 firing was based on a "very flawed, very inaccurate" report of what was going on within the band and that cited behavior that occurred before he became the director. Waters, 38, said he wants to talk to the university about coming back but told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he hasn't asked Ohio State for reinstatement.

He said he's focused on setting the record straight about efforts he made to change the band culture and about the investigation report, which he called inaccurate and unbalanced. He complained that only a few band members were interviewed, that it cited behavior occurring before his leadership and that information he provided to officials was left out of the report.

"I love my job, and I would love to absolutely come back to lead those students that I love, and to engage in the work that unfortunately I was not permitted to finish," Waters told The Columbus Dispatch. "My hope in all of this is that Ohio State will -- the university that I love -- will take a step back and engage me in a dialogue as to the cultural issues that were reported."

The university countered that Waters failed to report any instances of sexual harassment as required, hasn't contested the underlying facts of the investigation and has yet to produce "any factual examples that demonstrate any tangible attempts to change band culture."

The statement also said Waters "misled" university officials during the process.

A two-month investigation concluded Waters knew about, but failed to stop, a "sexualized culture" of rituals that included students marching in their underwear and performing sexually themed stunts to get explicit nicknames.

Waters, who was an assistant director before he took over the band in 2012, denied on Tuesday the university's claims that he misled investigators and didn't properly report allegations of sexual harassment.

Waters said university officials didn't mention a need for change before the investigation but that he recognized it and talked with students about changing the culture and took other steps, such as added leadership and sexual harassment training, banning inappropriate nicknames and ending the late-night underwear march, known as Midnight Ramp, which he says included the presence of campus police.

"To say that the university was not aware of what was going on is just false," Waters said Tuesday.

He also said that recorded audio in which he yelled at and used profanity toward a student being disciplined does not reflect his typical manner in dealing with students and that he regrets how he handled that encounter.

Waters and his attorney, David Axelrod, said they haven't considered taking legal action but are leaving the next step up to the university.

Waters has enjoyed a groundswell of support from marching band alumni, some current members, the community and others who say his leadership helped bring the band to national prominence in the past two years. Waters says that abundance of support is evidence that the university's report didn't paint a full, accurate picture of the band.

New Ohio State president Michael Drake is enlisting former state Attorney General Betty Montgomery to lead a task force that will assess the band's culture, allow other interested parties to share their thoughts and recommend guidance moving forward. The appointment letter from Drake to Montgomery says a report from the panel is expected within two months.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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