CINCINNATI – Ohio State trustees have decided against reinstating the university’s marching band director, who was fired after an investigation showed he knew about, but failed to stop, a sexualized band culture.
Board Chairman Jeffrey Wadsworth wrote Friday to Jonathan Waters’ attorney, saying the board “stands firmly” behind the findings of a university investigation and President Michael Drake’s decision to oust him.
Waters, who had led the band since 2012, had written to the board asking for a chance to return to his job, citing what he called flaws in the university probe and his positive performance review weeks before he was terminated. His elaborate halftime shows drawn on iPads revolutionized the field and prompted millions of fan views on YouTube.
He wanted the board to take up the matter at its next meeting this month. Wadsworth’s letter to attorney David Axelrod said the board won’t review the case.
“We consider the matter closed and we are moving forward as a university,” the letter said.
Axelrod said Saturday that he’s very disappointed by the board’s response.
“It’s just human decency that they should let someone who has done so much for the university to at least get a chance to be heard,” he said.
Axelrod said Waters is still focused on getting his job back and litigation challenging a “deeply flawed” investigation is a possible option.
Ohio State spokesman Gary Lewis said Saturday that the university stands behind the investigation and has taken steps to move forward.
Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month Office of University Compliance and Integrity probe concluded he didn’t stop a band culture of rituals that included students marching in their underwear, playing groping games on buses, and tagging sexually explicit nicknames on members based on suggestive stunts mimicking orgasms, sex toys or body parts.
The board had stated earlier that trustees “unequivocally support” Drake’s decision, and Buckeye football great Archie Griffin, as leader of the university’s alumni association, also backed Drake.
Drake said in Columbus on Wednesday that he stood by the firing and saw little chance Waters would be reinstated. He has said he is protecting students’ right to a safe and welcoming environment.
The university has released Waters’ personnel file, which included praise for his “courageous” efforts to tackle band traditions, but the traditions being referenced weren’t named.
Associated Press writer Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus contributed to this report.
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