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Ohio State stands by band director's firing

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State University 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 which cited behavior that occurred before he became the director. The 38-year-old Waters said he wants to talk to the university about coming back.

“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 has said he had taken steps to change the culture of the band during his two years at the helm and years before that as an assistant director, but it was slow to change. He said leadership and sexual harassment training had been introduced.

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, the community and others who recognized that his leadership helped bring the band to national prominence in the last two years.