It’s been a busy semester for us, so we have not always kept up with the latest Title IX happenings. I am actually looking right now at a white board of my things to do which includes a list of posts I want to write.
One of those is the Ohio State band situation that made headlines this past summer. OSU plays rivals Michigan this Thanksgiving weekend, so I figured it was as good a time as any to do an update post.
What has happened in the wake of band director Jonathan Waters’s firing has made less news than the original story and the subsequent protests of his firing, but as the OSU band has marched on (yes, intended) there have been developments in this story.
In September, Waters began a lawsuit against the university seeking reinstatement (plus a million dollars in damages) and–ironically–used Title IX as part of his defense saying he was discriminated against because of his gender. OSU did not seem to blink saying that such a claim was invalid given that he is a member of the male majority. They also responded that because Waters was an at-will employee, they could fire him at any time. (He had claimed lack of due process in his dismissal.) They also claimed that he hid aspects of and misled investigators about the climate in the band; the climate that seemed to promote sexual harassment and assault and which was brought to the attention of the administration last spring by a mother of a band member. He was also accused of mishandling complaints of sexual harassment and assault that were brought to him during his tenure. Notably, as this was happening, the university entered into an agreement with OCR to end the investigation into the university’s mishandling of sexual assault cases.The investigation did not stem from the complaints about the band.
Most recently, an independent task force created specifically to investigate the band culture and headed by former attorney general Betty Montgomery issued a nearly 100-page report based on interviews with almost 200 people that included many recommendations about how to change the culture. The task force, though, was committed to maintaining some of the band’s longstanding traditions (though it recommended elimination of the most egregious ones) just altering them to make less problematic.The report did not discuss Waters’s dismissal, only his role as the leader of the organization and an instructor. The report did not limit itself only to the culture under Waters. Waters has responded to the report saying that he agrees with the report and its recommendations and says that these are things that he was trying to accomplish when he was fired. (video here) He said that he was “the solution to the problems they were having.” And he still wants his job back.
He is, though, looking for another job in the meantime. His lawyer reports that he has not received any offers since his firing. This is not surprising. Unless there is solid evidence that Waters did not do what OSU is alleging he did, any university hiring him would be incurring some liability. Though Waters has received a tremendous amount of support from the OSU community (well outside of administration), I do not think that those a step removed from the situation see things the same way.