Drake stands by decision to fire Ohio State band director

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Laura Bischoff in our Columbus Bureau has been following Ohio State University for years. You can follow her and our political team on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics

Ohio State University President Michael Drake publicly defended his decision to fire OSU's popular marching band director Jonathan Waters and said that Waters will not be reinstated.

“Based on the facts, we stand by this decision,” he said.

Speaking before 375 people at the Columbus Metropolitan Club on Wednesday, Drake said the investigative report that detailed dirty nicknames, raunchy jokes and pranks and sexually explicit behaviors in the band was “profoundly disappointing.”

The report concluded that Waters turned a blind eye to the sexual harassment and culture within the 225-member band. The report described behaviors that would not be tolerated in any class or any unit on campus and probably not within companies, Drake said. “We have to have the same standards for everyone,” he noted.

OSU appointed Waters band director in January 2013, an at-will position that paid $150,000 a year plus bonuses.

Firing Waters, who had been director for a little less than two years, was necessary to ensure a “safe and positive” environment for OSU students, he said.

Critics of the firing, including Waters and band alumni, say the nicknames and culture predate Waters time as director and the university knew about many of the traditions.

Waters’ 59-page personnel file, released Wednesday by OSU, shows he received stellar job reviews and his supervisors made note of how difficult it is to change band culture. He was praised as a gifted leader who supervises a complex operation with grace and efficiency.

Drake said investigators looked complaints made over a 15 month period and based on the facts presented university leaders decided a leadership change was needed.

“We have the values that we hold and we believe what is right and wrong. We believe that every woman on our campus deserves a full and unfettered opportunity to experience the campus. So we acted according to those values and the facts,” he said.

Drake took questions from a long line of news reporters, leading him to quip “I feel a little like Bruce Lee.”

Drake, who is an ophthalmologist and former chancellor of the University of California - Irvine, was asked what he wants his legacy to be at Ohio State. He said he hopes 50 years from now people will say Ohio State was a values-driven university that improved the state and nation and advanced the human condition and was a great source of pride, enjoyment and love.

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