Thursday, July 31, 2014

Allison Pallard: Life with The OSUMB... and my support of Jon Waters

Allison Pallard: Life with The OSUMB... and my support of Jon Water...My name is Allison Pallard and I am a 1998 graduate with 3 degrees from The Ohio State University.  I am also a 5 year member of The Ohio State University Marching Band from 1993-1997.  I am writing today to not only express my support for Jonathan Waters, but to also share my very special experience in the OSUMB as well as in my friendship with Jon. 

Let me take you back to 1992.  I was a 17 year old na├»ve freshman at OSU who...

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Jocelyn Smallwood - "A Letter from Donk"

"A Letter from Donk."
Dear Dr. Drake, Dr. Steinmetz and Dr. J,
I have spent a great amount of time the past few days weighing whether or not I should write to you. I ultimately chose to do so only because I felt my comments would add a unique and valuable perspective to the conversation regarding the recent dismissal of Jonathan Waters. Like several of my female colleagues in the band, my name was included in the 23-page report released last week. However, so far as I know, I was one of the few who were actually interviewed during the investigation.
While I take issue with much of the report that was compiled by the university, my greatest concern was echoed recently by several of my female colleagues in the band. Many of us were surprised to find ourselves included in a list of “sexually explicit” nicknames. Even more surprising to me was that at no time during my interview can I remember being asked about the details of my nickname, the circumstances under which it was given to me, or, perhaps most important, my feelings about my nickname. While the authors of the report may feel confident in their ability to draw their own conclusions about the feelings, opinions and intentions of others without asking them, I would argue that in this case, their clairvoyance has failed them miserably. Thus, I feel it is my right and duty to clear up several issues about the fourth name listed in the report: Donk.
Donk is not a malicious or offensive nickname. Donk is a person. Donk is a five-year member of the band, a former i-dotter, and a two-time squad leader of KL-Row, which also happens to be a predominately male row. Donk is a daughter, sister, friend, a woman and, most importantly, an independent, clear-minded person. Donk is not a moniker that was placed upon me without my consent, and it is most certainly not something of which I am ashamed.
What angers me the most is that, in spite of my feelings, I along with several others on the list have been mischaracterized as victims of “sexual harassment” without being asked directly for our input. Never in my life have I felt uncomfortable being known as Donk. It has appeared on shirts, social media, in papers for classes; in the label I stuck in my band hat and on a piece of duct tape in my raincoat not because it is a joke, but because it is my name. It is who I am.
Although when I say “never in my life,” what I really mean is never before last Thursday. I now find my nickname listed in myriad news reports as proof of the alleged horrible, sexually aggressive culture of the OSUMB. While I am just as disappointed in the media for not bothering to do their homework, I would hope that a report dealing with an issue as serious as terminating the employment of one of the university’s most visible, respected figures would have been undertaken with more care. In my five years in the band and since my graduation, I’ve discussed my nickname and where it came from with my friends, family, coworkers, bosses, alumni and random people passing me on the street. Odd then, that seemingly the only people who were uninterested in learning more about my nickname were those responsible for putting together a report about sexual harassment in the band.
But, at the center of this issue is an investigation that I feel was deeply flawed and executed with great carelessness and little concern for finding the truth. As someone with a deep understanding of the band, I would think that the hour I spent in the interview would have been used to gather the information I have about these issues and experiences. But as I recall, I was asked only a few general questions about the majority of the content in this report. Had you asked me, I could have told you that many of the examples in the report occurred long before Jonathan Waters was director. I could have told you that before we name rookies, we speak to each of them individually to ensure that nothing in their name touches upon any area they might find offensive. Had you bothered to ask, I could have told you that a large amount of the evidence on which the report relies is outdated or inaccurate. Or, perhaps, that is why they didn’t ask me?
I am well aware of the fact that the opinions of individuals often differ greatly. And I would guess that few people are making the argument that there is nothing in the culture of the band that needed to change. I am also certain that you have heard numerous examples of how the man you fired last week was the fiercest advocate for culture change in the band, joined in his efforts by Chris Hoch and Mike Smith and the majority of the band members. And had I been asked, I also could have offered numerous examples.
The truth is that this band makes strong women. It makes strong, smart, witty, confident and, therefore, beautiful women. As I have said before publicly, this band creates strong women because it treats us as equals. To make the band, individuals must be proficient in two areas: they must play well and march well. Gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, political view and socioeconomic status do not matter. In November, 2012, an African-American woman named Donk dotted-the-i against Michigan. It wasn’t because the men in my section decided to let me. It was because I worked hard and emerged on top. And on November 24th, when I realized my dream in front of more than 105,000 screaming fans, my fellow band members celebrated alongside me, not because I had broken a gender/racial barrier, but because we’re family and that’s what we do. Appropriately, last Thursday night, I once again found myself being supported by those same people. They are not nicknames on a list. They are not details in an investigation. They are not examples of harassment. They are my family. And the report does little justice to the truth that this band supports and nurtures women.
Please do not insult me as an individual by suggesting that I am so ignorant and so helpless that I somehow have managed to spend five years being consistently sexually harassed and not realize it. Do not treat my name as something that should be condemned when it is something I will continue to wear as a badge of pride.
There are negative things in our world—this is a fact of life. That does not mean that nothing can or should be done about them. However, it seems a shortsighted response to paint an entire organization with a broad brush when you only bothered to interview a handful of people about what has happened. The characterization of my name is simply one facet of this carelessness.
In closing, I still care deeply not only for the band, but for my university. That is why I write to you. The manner in which this report was put together is alarming. And if it is alarming to a twenty-three year old recent college graduate, I would hope that after hearing my story you as leaders, would, at the very least, look at this report and the manner in which it was produced with more scrutiny than you have up to the present time. Good management decisions must be based on accurate, well-researched, timely information. The report produced by the University’s compliance office, which served as the basis for the decision to fire Jonathan Waters, was none of those things.
I hope that in the future I can continue to serve my band, my university and community with pride and honor, and I will do so as a proud alumna both of this institution and of its band. Someday, if I am lucky enough to have children, I hope that I can share a love for Ohio State with them, just as my parents did with me. To echo the sentiment of another band alum I heard recently, I am certain with every fiber of my being, that if I have a daughter who wants to try out for this band, I will drive her across the country to try out. Moreover, when I do, I will make sure that she knows her value is not determined by what is said in a report, or in the news, or behind closed doors in a meeting. For that, I will tell her, look within yourself.
Respectfully yours,
Jocelyn Smallwood
TBDBITL, 2009-2013

Emily Balzer - Candidate for Membership in the OSUMB

As everyone knows, it's been a very difficult week for the OSU band program. I have yet to make a personal statement in the heat of events, and I believe I have finally found the words I've been searching for. Tonight I experienced what it was like to truly be involved in the ohio state marching band's program. As we fell in for Sloopy, around 100 alumni were there cheering, singing, and clapping with all of the sweaty, worn-out participants at tonight's session. Yes, we were worn out, but if you think that had any influence on how hard we push to perform Hang On Sloopy, you are terribly mistaken. You see, when you are a part of something as strong as the Ohio State Marching band, no matter how bad you feel, how scared, sick, exhausted you may be, you drive through it. You focus on striving towards a perfect arc on Sloopy with parallel legs and crescendos in the correct places. And tonight, as we finished, and I screamed "Yeah!" with my horn out proud showing off how hard we just worked, I didn't feel my shoulders throbbing or my arm aching. I stood there, staring straight forward at all of the alumni going crazy for the song they love to hear. I stood there, a part of something more powerful than I will ever be able to fathom. I stood there, a proud candidate trying out for The Best Damn Band In The Land.

The pride and excitement continued through 3 ramps and POPSICLES (THANK YOU TBS!!) along with a good "O-H, I-O OHIO!" with the alumni assisting us, of course.

And just when I thought it was all over, when I was walking back to my section, a familiar melody rang through the air triggering a goosebumps sensation down my arms. I stopped everything and turned to see those 100 people, arm in arm, swaying to Carmen Ohio. The 5 people around me wrapped their arms around me and swayed with me. I don't know their history, I don't know where they're from, but we are all a part of music and The Ohio State University. At that very moment I realized what it means to be a member of an organization as powerful as The Ohio State University Marching Band.

I would like to thank all of the alumni, especially Stephanie Renae and those of E and R rows who brought us candy and cookies! And I want to thank all of the fantastic Vets, Rookies, and Squad Leaders for being the most amazing group of people I have ever met. You are my heroes.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dr. Patrick Herak

As a former member of the Ohio State University Marching Band and a three-time graduate of The Ohio State University, I wanted to share with you how embarrassed I was by the investigation that was released last week, both by some of the findings of the investigation as well as the unscientific manner under which the investigation was carried out. The two major claims of the investigation are the hostility of the OSUMB culture and Jon Waters’ failure to address these issues. I’ll address some of the issues in the order of the report.

Midnight Ramp
Midnight Ramp (MR) is a unique experience as it is the only opportunity for every current member of the marching band to march together; during a game day two alternates in each row do not march. It can be argued MR also gave students an opportunity to experience something quite scary—marching out of the tunnel in front of 110,000 people—in a less-threatening, more-relaxing environment. Given that participation is not forced and students are able to cover themselves to their level of comfort (e.g. pajamas rather than underwear), I have no problem with this event. The only potential concern I have is if students are completely naked, which I do not remember from my tenure in the marching band. Other students may feel uncomfortable seeing this, which would be unacceptable. Barring that, if MR is a problem, I am shocked that it took the university this long to address the concern. Even decades ago, scoreboards were on and even night-time security stood at the gates of the stadium.

During my tenure in the band, not every rookie was given a nickname and very, very few would be considered sexually explicit. If students were given sexually explicit nicknames and did not want them, this behavior is totally unacceptable. However, I have always found it disturbing when people trying to promote tolerance are at the same time intolerant of the choices made by the people they claim to be protecting. In the news the past few days, the band members dubbed “Joobs,” “Tulsa” and “Tiggles” have come out defending their nicknames as consensual and something that made them feel closer to the band family. It appears the investigators failed to follow-up with any of these students, but rather painted the broad-brush implication that they were all sexually harassed.

The other issue I have with the investigation is that it does not address the time frame of these nicknames. Without a time frame you cannot properly address the conclusions in the report. If these 24 nicknames were all given the same year, then the culture would certainly be VERY disturbing. If the nicknames were spread over an 18-year period, then it would appear these nicknames are either isolated exceptions or a sub-culture that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, if it is found that no students were given nicknames that made them feel uncomfortable in the past two years than Waters has made a positive impact. I do not have the answers to these questions, but they are questions that should have been asked.

As far as nicknames being published in the alumni directory and on the back of “row” T-shirts, in my experience this practice has always been voluntary and is not so different from filling out your complete name and a preferred name on a survey. Some members embraced their nickname so much that other band members did not know their actual name. These alumni wanted their nickname in the roster so their fellow alumni could find them.

My recollection of tricks in band was finding out some talents members could have that facilitated getting to know others. (“Oh, you’re the one that has the speech from the Millennium Force from memory,” for somebody that worked at Cedar Point.) Many of the tricks listed in the report are disturbing and vulgar. Even if they were consensual, that does not mean people want to watch these behaviors. However, I would also go back to context. Without a time frame of these behaviors it is difficult to ascertain if this is a broad cultural issue or isolated sub-culture. I have heard from some alumni that many of these date back to the early to mid-2000s suggesting that this issue may have been dealt with. However, the investigators were very incomplete in their research.

Rookie Introductions/ Rookie Midterms & Physical Challenges/ Trip Tic
My experience with these is very different than those described in the report. In fact, I am speechless with some of the behaviors described and appalled by the Rookie Test (Exhibit A). I believe there is no place for this. I remember Rookie Introductions as singing your high school fight song, to which the rest of the bus would often join in, and telling a joke. Midterms often consisted of marching band history (there is some of this in Exhibit A) and a Script Test (where you would have to complete a script chart with the required number of steps). In fact, I remember taking the script test in my later years in the band as well. Trip Tics often had some information about where we were going (much like a AAA Trip Tic) and a few jokes, but were never directed at individuals and nothing like in the report.

Regarding the investigation, buses have often been staffed by not only the three members of the OSUMB staff in the report, but also by members of the school of music (e.g. Richard Blatti and Russel Mikkelson). If this issue was so widespread, why are there no citations made in the report by Mr. Blatti? Furthermore, a documentary crew followed OSUMB for an the entire season (I believe the DVD release was entitled “The Pride of The Buckeyes”). Why have these journalists not been questioned, since they were not only there but impartial parties to the investigation? Once again the methods of this investigation are so poor it is impossible to conclude whether this is a broad cultural issue or an isolated sub-culture, nor to determine if things were improving under Waters.

As mentioned on many occasions, the song book was an underground publication by some band members. The song book was not endorsed by the OSUMB staff and, according to exhibit B, the last revision was 2006. I would argue the majority of the songs were outdated and never sung; if they were sung at all, it was certainly not in public. Moreover, a likely reason why the last revision was in 2006 was that the staff has clamped down. The other ignored fact is that many of the songs are more representative of a national band culture—you’ll find the same fight song lyrics sung around the country—and part of a national pop culture sung at piano bars around the country. I even heard one song sung by a British band on a bus in the UK. In other words, they are not unique to OSUMB.

In summary, I find some of the behaviors in the report unacceptable and hope they are isolated incidents and no longer occurring. I know many school districts in the area have training videos accompanied by quizzes for all their teachers in areas like safety, sexual harassment, tolerance, etc. I am amazed that a university of this size and resources has not implemented such a process for all students in groups that must be Title IX compliant.

However, I also find the investigation by the Office of University Compliance so poorly conducted that the conclusions reached are unjustified. Assumptions are made that students listed in the report were in a hostile environment, when the testimonies that have been released following the investigation state just the opposite. The sampling was not representative nor random, but rather focused on specific allegations and incidents that make it impossible to ascertain the overall culture of the band. In fact, the best tool for this Student Evaluation of Instructions (SEIs) were noticeably absent from the report. With no time frames, it is impossible to determine how things have changed under Waters. In fact, the report suggests he submitted a list of changes that he has implemented, but for some reason these are not included.

It appears to me the goal of the investigation was to find Waters guilty and not actually determine the general culture of the band or whether Waters has made strides in improving some of the issues described in the report. Furthermore, I believe by releasing the nicknames and “tricks” to the media, the University may have violated FERPA and perhaps Title IX. The students can easily be identified and no less than two female students have come out at feeling harassed because of the report.  Furthermore, by publicly releasing the contents of the songbook, now many OSU band members who never had access to the songbook (as well as high school students that look up the OSUMB) have access to every song.  This action is socially irresponsible.

The poor quality of the Office of University Compliance investigation and President Drake’s hasty and impulsive decision has arguably brought the public image of the university more harm and shame than the immature actions of some of the past band members.  I am saddened that the original recommendation, to keep Waters at the helm, was ignored as I think Waters was/is uniquely qualified to continue to improve the deficiencies in the band culture due to his experience as a member. I stand with Jon.

Thank you for your time,

Dr. Patrick Herak
OSUMB 1991-1995
B.S.E. 1996, M.S. 2001, PhD 2010

Steven “Jim” Poast

Like many of you, I have been through a whirlwind of emotions, trying to make sense of a situation so complex, it seems almost impossible to comprehend what has happened and what is still to come. I was Jon’s squad leader (K-1) his first two years (my last two years) in the band. We marched together and I watched him grow from a wide-eyed “rookie” to a not-so-wide-eyed second year. I would like to think his enthusiasm for the iPad project came from the need to eliminate charts, since he carried mine most of the season. The enthusiasm and energy Jon shows for the band, the fans, and OSU in general has been there from the beginning; being cut from the band the year before made him stronger and stoked the fire he has within. I have enjoyed watching Jon work his way through the ranks to director. I will admit I beam with pride watching him direct the band as if he is my little brother and I get the privilege of seeing him achieve his dream. He is my brother, my row-mate and my friend.
I am heartbroken for my friend.
Ever since 2 pm last Thursday, I am trying to understand the entire situation. I know I don’t have all of the facts, and that seems to be a common thread as the investigation continues. I know what being a part of this organization means to Jon, what it means to me, what it means to all of us.
I am heartbroken for my fellow alumni.
The world we knew is gone. There is no going back in time. We have to deal with the situation the best way we know how, with determination, dedication and drive. Things will change and that is unsettling and scary. But the change is already in motion and we can’t stop it. We can only prepare, adapt and conduct ourselves in a positive and professional manner. What I loved about being in the band, specifically KL row, was that for the time you were there, you could be considered one of the best of the best in the world at what you do. “I’m one of the best at marching and playing the Sousaphone!” How many people can say that? I bring this point up because now is the time to get back that mentality. Be the best of the best. The best alumni band, the best alumni organization, the best support system for Jon and for each other.
I am heartbroken for the current band.
The 2014 band will be faced with challenges most of us have never seen. The experiences and stories we have shared and used to motivate student musicians to come to OSU may seem like tales from an era time has forgotten. The media coverage will be as intense as ever and not all for the right reasons. My hope is that through this struggle, this year’s band becomes one of the strongest ever to perform at Ohio State. As we work to defend our image, our brand and our reputations, we need to keep in mind this group of students will be paying the price for things beyond their control. We must support them throughout the season, so they can have positive stories to share on the social media of 2020, maybe it will all be holograms by then!
I am optimistic.
We have an outstanding network of people who are stepping up to offer help, raise awareness and educate, as well set the record straight. The example set by this group shows everyone we are truly a family. We are a family, like many, who don’t always agree, sometimes fight, and don’t always get to see each other, but when push comes to shove…well let’s just say no one pushes us around!
I am optimistic.
Because while ramp lead outs, Skull Session entrances and i-dots only last for a few moments at a time, the stories of late night music memorization, early morning trips for donuts and game-day row traditions endure. These are the stories we share even as we fight to save our reputation. These are the stories that truly make the OSUMB a successful and world class organization.
I am optimistic.
If an organization like the OSUMB can take a skinny, smart-mouthed, farm boy like me, and give him a chance to be successful in school, entrust him with the bands traditions as well as be an ambassador of the university and become a leader within the band, then that is an organization worth fighting for.
Pick up your feet, turn your corners square, and DRIVE, DRIVE, DRIVE!
Steven “Jim” Poast
KL Row ’92 - ‘96

Christina Regule

My name is Christina Regule, and I was the first female I-Row Squadleader in 1986 (Assistant Squadleader in 1985). Nothing prepared me more in this life to become a U.S. Army Active Duty Chaplain than my five years in THE Ohio State University Band! When the news broke for me here in Germany, I was stunned, outraged, conflicted, and convicted regarding parts of the report; however, the research methodology and its subsequent results are extremely inaccurate and seemingly intentionally misleading. I never did or saw a midnight ramp. I never laid my eyes on the infamous songbook. I've never been to the Varsity Club. Furthermore, I was given my nickname, because it was so incongruent with my life, and I received that honorably, as a core value compliment. Yet, my OSUMB Family was there for me through band tryout preparations, the death of my "Buni" (Grandmother), and the establishment of a "For God and Country" foundation to become an Active Duty Army Chaplain. The culture of the Ohio State University Marching Band, not only prepared me for the U.S. Army, it also prepared me for year-long deployment in Afghanistan: Family-bonding, Trust, Resiliency, and Survival!

For God and Country, and "Our Honor Defend, We will Fight To The End for O-HI-O!"


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Brianne Reiss

It's interesting that, to date, the hardest things I've had to do in my life have almost always been tied to this band. And you can bet your ass I'll continue to do those things, without hesitation, until we live in a world where these things aren't called into question anymore. I wrote my email today. Have you written yours?

To President Drake and Whom It May Concern:

Hello. My name is Brianne Reiss. I am a 2010 graduate of The Ohio State University and a four year alumna of The Ohio State University Marching Band. A few quick facts up front: I am female. I played the snare drum. In my four years as a member of the band including one as a squad leader, my twenty-nine member row was consistently male dominated. Considering just the snare line alone, over my career the greatest number of females to earn positions in the snare line during one season was a whopping five out of fourteen members. It is fair to say that I am one of the supposed victims of the sexual harrassment culture this investigation is propogating. I am here to say that is simply not the case.

The current slander debacle that is taking place is offensive to me on many levels and that is saying something because as I'm sure you've heard, it takes a lot to offend a member of The Ohio State University Marching Band. As a woman and an alumna, I'm taken aback by the ease in which society has seemingly assumed that this type of behavior would ever be acceptable; that without having met me or many of the alumni that have had the privilege of moving this great organization forward, it has somehow been determined that we would allow this type of behavior to continue without question. I don't know if I could pick exactly which assumption angers me most: that I would submit myself to that kind of treatment or that I would permeate an atmosphere of sexual harrassment for other people. Are changes necessary to some of the traditions that have spanned decades within our band? Absolutely. But in the same breath, the band I made in 2006 was a completely different animal from the band I left at the beginning of 2010 due to steady effort. Although firmly-footed progress can take time to create, it has been happening and is in many ways due to the direction of Jon Waters. I'll touch more on him later [not literally, Columbus Dispatch, put down your pens], but I'd like to start with the Title IX aspect first.

Women may number in the minority of the band, but to suggest that we are or were in any way minimalized or forced to be submissive to the male members of the band is laughable. Have you met a girl in the marching band? Rock stars should write sonnets about these women. They are strong and driven, they are spirited, and by God, they are loud. I can promise you they wouldn't take being systematically overlooked or waved aside sitting down. These are women that create change. These are women that push for more. They number among the best I have known in my life and I am proud to stand among them. I could only hope to have daughters some day who carry themselves the same way.

The last few days have been tough to stomach. Not only am I offended as a woman of the band by the idea that this type of culture has been allowed to run rampant through the halls of Steinbrenner Band Center, but to state matter of factly that the men of the band-- whom I count among my chosen family, who have been in my home, have met my blood relatives, and have shared more time, more memories, and more tender moments with me in the OSUMB than any other individuals in my life-- that they would ever treat a female as less than equal is repellent. I am five foot two inches tall on a good day. When I made the band I was 98 pounds. Even at my best, I continue to be a wisp of a girl. And yet, there was never a time in my career as a band member that I felt in any way threatened, that I felt unsafe, or that I felt persecuted. There were many moments on The Ohio State campus in Columbus when I was afraid. Not once was that ever in the presence of another person from the marching band.

As an independent adult engaging in my own life, at no point had I ever felt my hand was forced while in the marching band. I was fully aware of my decisions as I made them and honestly, I can't think of any moments I regret from my time or would do again in a different way. Growing up can be a bumpy road for anyone. Being in a high pressure, incredibly public position of power in your early 20's proffers terrible possibilities. While there are always a few bad apples in any bunch, I don't feel that the great majority of the band took that position for granted. In fact, that yoke is worn with great care and with the sense of responsibility that comes with being a representative, at least for a short time, of something far greater than anything we could ever accomplish alone. It hurts my heart to see the character of these people called into question; that this world that we live in is so quick to assume the worst in everything. There continues to be changes that need to be made with the culture of the marching band, but that culture is not unique to us. Lewd humor and alcohol consumption are not traits of Buckeyes alone, and while the time and place for such things are certainly not in the band hall, trying to rid college students of these vices is not a battle I would wish upon anyone.

As a member of the supposed persecuted party in this ongoing investigation, I stand with Jon Waters. I feel the decision to fire him from his place as director of The Ohio State University marching band is short-sighted and unjust. Yes, we live in a litigious society. Yes, we have seen the university make terrible mistakes in an effort to protect their own skin in the past. I'm asking that you take into consideration the great number of individuals who are willing to bear witness to Jon's personal character and his actions as both assistant and director of this band and that you change the tide. This investigation continues to suggest that victims are waiting in the wings for the call to come forward and yet the one man who has been committed to its members and the organization's name for half his life is being overlooked and a victim is exactly what he is.

Full disclosure: I don't think Jon has handled this investigation well. I do think he is still the best person to lead the band into the future and the only person who has successfully curbed ill-fitted tradition to date. There is a livelihood at stake here, one that has made some mistakes but has proven over time to be the driving force behind necessary change: the type of changes that are still needed in other organizations on this campus. At what point does the face of the university become more important than the individuals it serves? What volume must our voices reach before they will be heard?

There will always be work to be done to create safe environments, to grow kindness and patience, to fulfill the potential that each of us carry within ourselves to do good as we make decisions each day. When it comes to bureaucracy, I'm not the person who makes fists and stands in the rain to make sure my opinion is heard. I'm not even the person who would stand in line for free ice cream. But I'm sitting at my computer and I'm typing this note to you because sitting in silence is acquiescing that the way this has been handled is acceptable. I chose to write to you because as an alumna of this fine university established in excellence and as a person whose life has been greatly enriched by the OSUMB, I want better for both organizations from you than what you're currently offering. I chose to write to you because Jonathan Waters deserves more.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my thoughts and, formally, welcome to the Buckeye family. Here's wishing your experiences with Ohio State are as wonderful as mine.


Brianne Reiss

Analysis of Percentage of Women in OSUMB

This is the result of my little research experiment yesterday. Thank you all for your information. I just submitted this as a letter to the editor of the Dispatch. They probably won't share it as it contains a well research argument, so I am sharing it here:
As a female alumnus of the Ohio State University marching band, I feel compelled to clear up some details after reading Collin Binkley’s article about the band on the front page of the Sunday paper. Over the past few days, several of my fellow alumni members have written wonderful letters to the Dispatch, President Drake and other news outlets. I am a very data driven person, so I have spent the last 48 hours gathering as much information as I can about two major issues I have with this article.
My first concern is Mr. Binkley’s point that women are rarely selected to be squad leaders in the marching band. As a four year member of the band, I spent 2 years serving as a squad leader, an assistant in 2004 and a head squad leader in 2005. Feeling concerned that perhaps my perception of the number of female squad leaders was skewed by the 8 years that have passed since I was in the band, I posted a request on the official TBDBITL Alumni Facebook page asking that anyone who had or was a female squad leader in the band let me know their name, their row and what years they served as squad leaders. Within ten hours, I had the names of 195 women who have served as squad leaders since women joined the band in 1973. And this list is still growing. In fact, my row has had a woman serve as an assistant or head squad leader, and for 4 years both, for every year except one since 2001. This number does not include the 51 women who have served as head managers, librarians and secretaries for the band starting as far back as 1947.
The other concern I have is the comment regarding the ratio between men and women in the OSUMB as opposed to other Big Ten bands. The author specifically mentioned our friendly band from that place up North, so I did some researching on my own. Using Michigan’s 2013 roster that is posted online, I discovered that when looking at the entire band, 42.44% is made up of women. This is not quite the equal makeup that Mr. Binkley implies, but it is close. However, if you take into account that the OSUMB is made up of only brass and percussion, the picture changes quite a bit. Only 22.15% of Michigan’s brass and percussion sections are made up of women. If we take away the woodwinds, flags and majorettes, something that OSU does not have, the percentage is actually LOWER than the 22.67% that represents the number of women in the 2013 OSUMB. Another Big Ten band, Penn State, has a similar issue. When looking at the Nittany Lion band only 22.22% of the brass and percussion sections are made up of women. Having a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from OSU, and having taught in a public school district for 4 years, I would love to believe that the stereotypes no longer exist that women play woodwinds and men play brass. And while ideas are changing, it is a fact that currently more men play brass and percussion instruments. To be honest, I’m okay with a band with a lower percentage of women, especially when an increase tends to mean the women are dressed in suggestive glittery attire, and twirl flags or dance provocatively on the field. I find those choices to be degrading to women.
I urge you to please look at the many stories being shared by the women alumni of the OSUMB. We were not abused or mistreated. In fact, the male members became our friends, teammates and brother-in-arms as we spent countless hours learning difficult drills and memorizing challenging songs. Rather than being sensitive and delicate girls, the women of the OSUMB, both past and present, are strong, confident and empowered members of society. And we owe much of that to what we learned and gained from the band. I am just as proud to be an alumnus of the OSUMB as I was after I marched my last game. And in my heart they have always been and will forever remain TBDBITL.
Jenna McCoy
E-Row 2002-2005
BME 2007

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Blog Name Has Changed

The original name of this blog was "Women of the OSUMB". The push-back from all corners of band alumni against the unfounded accusations that The Ohio State University Marching Band and its director, Jon Waters, have permitted an atmosphere of sexual harassment and homophobia has caused me to include all OSUMB alumni and supporters who wish to speak out.

If you would like your story told, unfiltered by the press, please contact me at staleyrapp (at)

Thank you,
Sherri Rapp, blog owner

Allison Schaffer

President Drake,
First and foremost, welcome to The Ohio State University, the best university in the country as far as myself and many others are concerned. In fact, I loved it so much, I took a full 5 years to graduate. My name is Allison Schaffer, a.k.a. Princess, to those who affectionately called me that. I was Hall Council President of Baker Hall, played in the University Band, sang in Women’s Glee and was heavily involved in the Theatre Department. I was a manager for The Ohio State University Marching Band and the Athletic Bands from 1992-1994 and Head Manager for the 1993 Athletic Band season and 1994 football season.
Being a manager was an amazing experience for me from the get go. I was a 19 year old woman trying to figure out where I belonged in a campus full of very different people. I came from New Jersey and really didn’t know the history of Ohio State or the marching band; I just knew that, as soon as I found that organization and the amazing people that were part of it, I found the place I wanted to be. I took responsibility for my actions as an adult. I was never forced to drink, forced to take place in Midnight Ramp and NEVER hazed as implied in your report. I CHOSE to do these things, after all I was living the college experience, right? Yes, my nickname, Princess, was because I am an East Coast Jewish woman and the nickname is short for Jewish American Princess, but this was an affectionate term and not hateful by any means. As a matter of fact, I found that being a Jewish woman was great, I was able to educate those people who never met a Jew, or never had Jewish friends before, making them more diverse. I would have never had these experiences had I joined a social sorority, instead I would be paying to have friends which I got for free the minute I became a part of the band. Better yet, I call these people family … because we all get it! We have all been there and shared these experiences with each other … to me, that’s invaluable. I would never have gone to bowl games, loaded airplanes, met celebrities, participated in traditions and most of all met some of the closest friends that I have TO THIS DAY!
I was shocked to learn about the investigation into the band and the firing of Jon Waters. Jon is a stand up man who has nothing but the best intentions and actions. He has been trying to change that culture but, unfairly, you only gave him a year! One season! Thanks to your decision, the media has made all of the organization past, present and future sound like a bunch of animals. I assure you that this is not the truth and I feel you and all of those involved in this decision, didn’t take the time to speak to those of us who were there. I am saddened by the actions of the university that I proudly (usually) represent as an alumnus. Thanks to your actions, I have had to spend the last few days defending myself, my humility, my friend Jon Waters and most of all MY University!
Allison “Princess” Schaffer
OSU Marching Band
Manager/Head Manger 1992-1994

Monday, July 28, 2014

Victoria Nolte

President Drake,
I marched my fourth and final season with the OSUMB this past year and as a female I feel that I need to speak out. The media and university have dragged a wonderful man and organization through the mud, with very little facts and context. This was not an investigation, it was a witch-hunt.
My nickname appeared in the report, but I was not contacted whatsoever. Ohio State did not conduct a proper investigation, but rather took hearsay to victimize and slander me. I was absolutely not made to feel inferior during my time in band, and these claims of misogyny are way off base. Using this false report, my own university was the FIRST to make me feel like a frail, helpless, inferior, sexual object. I reject any insinuation that I was coerced or pressured into doing ANYTHING. If they had taken the time to talk to me, a more complete narrative would have emerged.
From the time you make band, you are a part of the TBDBITL family and everyone takes care of one another. During my time in the band the older members were constantly making sure I was okay, and it was ALWAYS made clear to me that I did not have to participate in anything that I did not feel comfortable doing. That being said, “midnight ramp” was absolutely all in good fun, the point of it being, “If you can march ramp in your underwear in front of your closest friends, you’ll be able to march ramp in front of 105,000 fans”. Many people chose not to march in their undergarments, but wore as much clothes as made them feel comfortable. Many didn’t even participate. I would like to make it very clear that Jon understood this lighthearted tradition, and was present to make sure we were all safe. He single-handedly changed this to a sober and safe event, and even completely cancelled the event for years following his inaugural year as head director.
Quite a few traditions have been done-away with by Jon and his staff over the past two years. The things we could get away with drastically changed, like night and day, from the beginning of my band career to the end. The band frequently referred to Jon and his staff as the “fun police”, making siren noises whenever he cracked down on us, or changed something. Jon always would have talks with the entire band and squad leaders, feeling it was important to consult the band to get feedback in finding a solution to tweak our deeply rooted traditions. He coined the phrases, “Do we need this? Is this necessary?” The answer, of course, was “No.” Jon was passionate about bringing forth change in our culture, and was a very disciplinary leader. Any other report that says otherwise is absolutely false and fabricated. Jon Waters was TBDBITL’s instrument of change. (Pun intended)
I am very sure about one thing. Without the support of Jon Waters and this band, I don’t know how I could have gotten through my mother’s cancer, or even my undergraduate chemistry classes. I have served as the former vice president and president of the band’s service sorority, Tau Beta Sigma, working closely with Jon to provide service to the whole band. We supported the bands at OSU through recruitment, financial support, and especially welcoming the new members of the marching band and helping them in various ways throughout their first season, among other things. Jon is a stand up man, who cares not only about his own students, but all students involved in music. A few years ago, a tragedy occurred where another Big Ten marching band member lost their life. Although our fiercest of rivals, Jon quickly organized a few TBDBITL members to drive up to the university the next day to speak to their band in support, attend a memorial service, and give the band one of our most prized possessions, a grey baton. I could speak all day about the respect I have for Jon Waters as a leader.
For the first time, I am very disappointed in my university. If you want more change, the only person who understands this band and knows how to do that is Jon Waters. As a female member of The Ohio State University Marching Band Alumni- I stand with Jon.
Victoria “Tulsa” Nolte
Q-Row 2010-2013
Past Tau Beta Sigma President
Biology B.S. 2014 graduate"

Damian Sheets

O' Captain my Captain
The past couple of days have weighed heavily on my heart as I have witnessed an organization (and individual) that I have held so dear to my heart be exposed, insulted, mocked, persecuted, misrepresented, and finally dismantled by the very alma mater that I believed was dedicated to the betterment of that same organization, its members and the community around it.
What I have witnessed over these past couple of days has led me down a path I never thought possible, questioning my allegiance to a University that has been in my heart since I can remember even having the ability to remember. While I did not grow up in Ohio, my parents (both Ohioans) raised me on the core values that I believe were instilled in them by such a great state and its leading university: discipline, loyalty, scholarship, benevolence, family (actual and metaphorical), and empathy. I emphasize the latter two core values because I believe they are especially important in the context of these recent events.
My first true encounter with The Ohio State University Marching Band is undoubtedly similar to many others. I was five or six years old, travelling from Las Vegas to Columbus to go to my first Ohio State game with my father and grandfather. Times were different back then. I learned that my grandfather had never attended college because of his need to support his family and play a role in World War II. Similarly, my father, whom I thought had graduated from Ohio State, was forced to graduate at another institution due to his required military service at the time. Nonetheless, their allegiance to this great university was unwavering, and had been impressed upon me from minute one of my existence.
Upon arriving in Columbus, it was a typical grey and dreary fall day with the leaves changing, the clouds hanging over and rain looming. Our first stop was high street, where they took me to Buckeye Donuts to drink hot chocolate and play connect four before walking around campus and showing me where my mother attended her classes as a student some twenty years earlier. The trees and buildings were beautiful and nothing like I had seen in Las Vegas. All of the fans and students were so excited just to be alive, engaging in another great Saturday of college football and festivities. It didn’t feel like it was about winning or losing, or being number one, but just being a part of a great institution during truly great activities on such a great day. As I continued around campus, this pride echoed through the hallways of every building and resonated in the tone of every voice.
The next stop was St. John’s Arena, where my father began to tell me stories about the band. I remember him saying “If you listen real close, you can hear the band coming. Listen for the drums.” I sat and listened, eager to be the one that heard the band first. The fans would start to clap and die down, and clap some more. Then, out of nowhere, the entire Arena erupted into screams and applause, and with a quick exit, the band came out, so crisp, so clean, so pristine. The quickness of the steps and movements, I remember, were so precise that I could barely contain myself. And then they played
And I knew….
The music, the fight songs, the pride, all so overwhelmingly strong, that I couldn’t imagine any better place in the world to be on any football Saturday. I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of. I saw the effect it had on the fans around me, the inspiration they drew from it and the sheer fun each member was having. I didn’t see depression, coercion, or harassment, but instead pure happiness and joy from the sons and daughters who were laughing, dancing with one another and visiting their families up in the stands. Once called to order, their professionalism and discipline was distinct, each member working together to accomplish one task…greatness.
And I knew…
Fast forward twelve years (and past an immeasurable number of return visits to watch TBDBITL) to my arrival on Ohio State’s campus as an entering freshman. For the past twelve years, I had been practicing my trumpet, attending music camps, and taking instruction from local TBDBITL alum in preparation for this moment. As with most freshman auditioning for the band, I was forced to move-in two weeks early into an empty dorm suite. Tryouts began and I quickly learned that, while I could play, I was in over my head from a physical standpoint.
And I was cut….
First cut…. (4.5 average marching score for those who know what that means…ouch)
For those of you who have never experienced first cuts, it is a spirit crushing ordeal, one that makes you feel worthless and want to give up on your dreams. They read off the numbers and ask you to go to the other room. At first, you hope that they are just moving you or reassigning you, or that you are going in to another “extra session” where they will provide additional assistance, but then you hear the director start talking to the larger group in your absence, and you know that, notwithstanding how hard you‘ve tried, you’ve failed.
Enter Jonathan Waters, then a graduate assistant, and many other band staff. They walk into to room to give you the bad news, however, instead of simply thanking you and sending you on your way, they tell you war stories about how they got cut, or even first cut, and were able to overcome it to become band members and even squad leaders. They encourage you to engage in the athletic band program, participate in spring band, attend summer sessions, and come back the next year better than ever. They tell you how valuable you are to the organization and to never give up on the music. They instill hope.
And you try again…
Over the next year, I came to know Dr. Woods, Jonathan Waters, and Chris Hoch quite well. As directors and staff, they constantly encouraged me to push myself to the limit and learn from those who had been a part of the organization for some time (“vets” as I would learn they were called). They let me travel, as a freshman, on tournament trips, which only motivated me more. When Spring Band came about, Jon was always there, encouraging me to pick up my feet and turn my corners square. Finally, Jon and Dr. Woods offered me the opportunity of a lifetime, a spot in volunteer band, actually marching in a script.
And I failed again…
Some of you have seen a video of the Script Ohio performance on August 24, 2002. For those of you who have but can’t remember it, let me remind you. It is the one where a bozo collides with a trombone player at the “h” crossover and has to run back to his script spot, in front of 106,000 people. I was that bozo, who had finally been given this opportunity to prove that I should be a member of the greatest marching band in the world, and I blew it (in front of my parents no less) on its biggest stage. That was me, and as heart crushing as being first cut the year earlier, there was no comparison between that and this.
With tryouts only two days later, I returned to my grandmother’s home, only to sulk and consider if I was worth of even trying out at this point. There I stayed until three hours before candidate tryouts were to begin, when I got a call from my father. “No, I don’t think I’m going to tryout this year. I got the opportunity to march, that’s all I ever wanted.” I said to him. “Are you crazy,” he said, “If you don’t go to these tryouts because of one mistake, after having spent your entire life pursuing this dream, I’ve truly overestimated you as my son.” For the next hour, I sat and thought back to the words of encouragement that Jon Waters and other band staff had given me throughout the prior year, and my father was right. I needed to go back and do this. Otherwise, I was ignoring the very thing that TBDBITL was about: figuring out a way to learn from your mistakes and driving through them in order to be a part of something truly great.
And I drove through it….
Tryouts were tough, but I made it, as a regular no less. My squad leaders, Henry Lee and Nick Strickling, two of the most supportive and instructive band members I have ever met, were nothing short of encouraging and positive every step of the way. Along with some fourth and fifth year members in the row, Henry and Nick made it clear that all of the senior members in the band were there to help us with any problems we may have. This included help with marching, music, and even more personal issues, like studies, jobs, relationships, or problems within the band. It became apparent that being a member of this organization was more than just being a number (“T10” and later “T9” in my case), it was being part of a family. This is a sentiment that was reflected every step of the way by every member, and echoed by band leadership. There was never a moment where directors or staff made us feel like we could not talk to them if we needed help.
Throughout my two years in the Ohio State University Marching Band, I witnessed many things, both on and off the field. Some were positive and some might be construed by others as negative, but one thing I never saw was leadership condoning any activity which acted to harass any other member, or place them in such an uncomfortable position that they felt they had no recourse. In fact, that leadership, which included Jonathan Waters, always made it clear that if there was anything that you (as a student) felt wasn’t right, you should immediately bring that to the attention of your squad leader, and if that got you nowhere, you should bring it to them directly. I had such a moment, and brought it to the attention of a senior member of my row (not even a squad leader). With great concern, the senior member took care of it immediately, and within a couple of days, things were much more positive and the problem completely resolved.
There has been a lot of talk recently about students being “forced” to engage in activities like taking oaths of secrecy, marching in their underwear, engaging in “derogatory” song singing, performing “rookie tricks,” performing “physical” challenges, completing rookie “midterms”, engaging in “sexual” and allegedly “derogatory” activities on busses, and creating/reading derogatory publications. What the university and news outlets fail to discuss, likely because of their decision to act with haste instead of reserve and thoroughness, is that so many of these alleged “events” are misrepresented and so many positive aspects of the band have been outright ignored.
First and foremost, directorship and student leadership never forced anyone to do anything in TBDBITL, except give 110% on the field when practicing and performing. From your initial summer session until your last day in band, there are only a few statements that can sum up the position said directorship/leadership: “Enthusiasm”, “Pick up your feet”, “Turn your corners square,” “Drive, Drive, Drive”, and “Drive through it”. These are the bedrock principles of what we are all taught by this leadership core from the moment we become members. We are taught to work hard, push through the pain, and give everything we have to our performances and our lives. As long as we do that, we have earned the right to call ourselves members and alumni of The Best Damn Band in the Land.
Leadership and directorship always made it known that they were there to help the students in any way possible. Whether it be trouble with classes, family problems, or trouble within the organization, this leadership core always encouraged communication with both squad leaders and the directors so that assistance and the appropriate steps could be offered in making the experience the best it could possibly be. In fact, to my knowledge, never did a director, squad leader, or senior member fail to meet with anyone who had a concern about the band, its actions (on and off the field), or its direction. On many occasions members were honored to have directors write letters of recommendation for medical school, law school, and the like.
With regards to the alleged “activities” as represented (more misrepresented) in the University’s “report”, band leadership did not condone any activity which acted to discriminate or harass any other individual, and such was made clear IMMEDIATELY after every member’s inception into the organization. As an example, each year band directorship arranged a meeting with the newly selected band to go over certain rules, policies and procedures. These policies and procedures were deeply rooted in the same TITLE IX that the University now claims Jonathan Waters did not take steps to enforce. During this meeting, Directors, including Jonathan Waters, explained how hazing, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct would be inexcusable, and if such were to occur, it should be brought to the attention of the Directors immediately. Every student was required to sign an acknowledgement to these policies. That being said, it cannot be denied that some of the alleged activities did occur, however, under very different circumstances than portrayed in the University’s report, and certainly without the knowledge of the Directors, who were very much dedicated to the process of eliminating such alleged behavior.
While the University has chosen to take an unnecessarily negative approach towards Jonathan Waters and the Ohio State University Marching Band, as a whole, for these alleged “activities”, what is more disheartening is its attempts to misconvey the facts surrounding such and its further attempts to now vilify Former Director Jonathan Waters in its efforts to justify its almost unilateral and knee-jerk reaction. It is important to note that, the report, which purports to have talked with five current and five former marching band members, was prepared during a time period when the band is effectively dormant and while many students are away for the summer. This, in and of itself, acts to question the integrity of a report which, if taken in its entirety as true, would lead every reader to believe that every man and woman, gay or straight, white or minority, believes themselves to be “victims” of this “horridly offensive” organization. The inconvenient timing of and quick-to-act decision making in this report has, in essence forced the silence of hundreds, if not thousands of current and past members of this organization who might share opinions contrary to those depicted in the report. This includes many who are women, minorities, and those with alternative sexual preferences.
Had the University thoroughly interviewed current and past members of the band, they would have seen that several of its highest ranking members are and have been both women and minorities. This includes, but is not limited to:
• Dwight Hudson and Oliver McGee, both African American drum majors, and integral parts of OSUMB history. During Mr. Hudson’s tenure, then Director Dr. Paul Droste changed band rules so that Mr. Hudson could return for a third consecutive year because, to quote Mike Harden from the September 1979 issue of Ohio Magazine, “DWIGHT – At halftime, he owns the house that Woody built.” This is an honor that only three other drum majors have had in OSUMB history, and is the only time a drum major has had that honor since 1930. Both Dwight and Oliver were also elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 1978 and 1980, respectively, an honor based entirely on the votes and support of fellow band members.
• Michelle Graf, the first female drum major in the Ohio State University Marching Band, and Kathryn Mitchell, 2003 Drum Major and 2002 Assistant Drum Major.
• Willie Sullivan, an African American male who served as Assistant Director for 12 years.
• Erica Neidlinger, the first female Assistant Director (1998-1999), and Lisa Galvin (2005). Lisa Galvin also served as a Squad Leader of R-Row and, in 2008, joined the staff as a Music Arranger.
• Marcia Lareau, the first female member of the Ohio State University Marching Band Music Arranging staff, with her first show on November 8th, 1986, receiving a standing ovation.
• Wilson Murray, the first African American OSUMB member elected as “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 1965.
• Marcel Reeder, an African American who was elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 1985.
• Colleen Nutter, the first female band member who was elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 1986.
• Pamela Bork, a female who was elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 1996. (As a side note, it is interesting that Ms. Bork expressed no issues with the alleged “sexualized culture" of the organization when she was receiving this award and during her no less than 16 year tenure thereafter, but only conveyed her alleged concerns after leaving the band in a disputed fashion).
• Erin Klingbeil, a female who was elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 1998.
• Amanda Howenstine, a female who was elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 2001.
• Wesley Clark, an African American and the only person in OSUMB history to be elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” twice. (2003, 2005).
• Aaron Bell, an African American who was elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 2006.
• Cara Ricci, a female who was elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” in 2008.
• 53 woman who have held the position of Head Manager, Head Secretary, and Head Librarian within the organization.
• The uncountable list of women and minority “I” dotters.
• The uncountable list of women, minority, and LGBT Squad Leaders and Assistant Squad Leaders that have been in the band over the past forty years.
Finally, there is Kristine Tikson, who I believe represents the essence of what the Ohio State University Marching Band is all about. Kristine originally enrolled at the Ohio State University in 1979, majoring in Accounting. Graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1982, Kristine spent the next 28 years of her life pursing her career, but always regretted not having tried out for the band. In 2010, Kristine retired at 48 years old and decided to pursue her dream yet again. Although she had been a clarinet player originally, she began taking lessons, practicing the mellophone and attending summer sessions in order to prepare for what would certainly be a rigorous tryout.
Early on that following summer, however, disaster struck, and an MCL injury would make it impossible for her to audition. This wouldn’t stop Kristine, however, who instead of quitting, continued attending summer sessions, simply to watch and learn. After allowing her body to recover, Kristine started an intense training regimen, which included intense cardio, interval cardio, muscle strengthening exercises, and daily music practices. In order to gain playing and marching experience, Kristine enrolled in Spring Athletic Band and actively performed at the Ohio State Spring Football Game. After attending summer sessions through the summer of 2011, Kristine finally tried out, only to be cut.
Initially planning not to try out again, Kristine changed her mind, crediting the “positive feedback” she received from the directors and some students on “Make the Band Night.” Using this positive energy, Kristine pushed herself even harder, and was given a spot within the 2012 band. When asked about her experience, Kristine stated “The members of the band have accepted me and have not made a big deal of my age difference. They provide me with daily inspiration – they are so dedicated and talented. Membership in the OSUMB has been rewarding in so many ways. I consider it an honor and a privilege to wear the uniform.” Because of her inspiring story and her dedication to core principles of the Ohio State University Marching Band, Kristine became the only first year OSUMB member to ever be elected “Most Inspirational Bandsmen” by her fellow peers. It should be noted that Director Jonathan Waters presented that award.
It is stories like these, and many others that are now being shared all over the social platform, that the University’s quick-to-act and ill-timed report acted to suppress. Certainly, if one were to look at the University’s report in a bubble, with no knowledge of the OSUMB, its history, its values, its leadership, or its traditions, one could be outraged, but to do so would create such an injustice against the thousands of past and present members who know otherwise. We have no choice but to act now, united and strong.
“Membership in the OSUMB has been rewarding in so many ways. I consider it an honor and a privilege to wear the uniform.”
This is a sentiment that is reflected by most current and past members of the Ohio State University Marching Band, not a select few with individual axes to grind and personal vendettas (those whom the University conveniently chose to interview). This is an organization that has been dedicated to treating everyone equally, whether they be male, female, gay, straight, transsexual, white, or minority. It has been one to honor, rather than discriminate against those who are different, it has always strived to expand its horizons and it has frequently celebrated that diversity and expansion.
For example, just this past season, the TBDBITL Alumni dedicated part of their halftime show to celebrating “40 Years of Women in the Band.” The relevant portion of the show, which was performed on September 7, 2013, can be seen at, and featured the five “pioneer” women who took that first step of removing a long standing tradition of TBDBITL being an all-male institution. The band, in honor of these women, played Hang on Sloopy. Surely these are not the actions of an organization that would celebrate a culture of discrimination or sexual harassment.
When watching the performance, the announcer says something which rang true forty years ago and rings true now, “Change is not easy!” Change is never easy, and when a group as large as the Ohio State University Marching Band has been practicing a certain way and following certain traditions for decades, any attempts to change such will be met a fiery resistance like none other. On one hand, it is that dedication and heart that has made TBDBITL what it is. On the other, it means that things cannot change overnight, and those who seek that change must have the courage and strength of a thousand warriors. Only one who has been deeply rooted in that tradition can truly understand the intricacies and difficulties of making those changes which are necessary to make the organization a better place for all students.
There is no man or woman more qualified to make that stand than Jonathan Waters himself. As a member of the band from 1995-1999, as Graduate Assistant Director from 2001-2002, as the Assistant Director from 2002-2011, and as Director from 2012-2014, Jonathan has dedicated his career to instituting that change when given the opportunity.
Below is a short, non-exhaustive list, of just some of the things Jonathan Waters has done in his 21 months as director to ensure change, and some of the things the University Report Seriously Misconstrues:
• As Director, Jonathan Waters did, in fact, prohibit the consumption of alcohol while attending any away games. This topic is completely neglected in the report, and instead, the University completely relies on the statement of Pam Bork, who claims to have left the band because of alleged alcohol abuse and sexual conduct. Instead of interviewing others, the University takes her statements as true, and neglects to entertain the notion that there is quite possibly an ulterior motive for her conveniently timed statements, considering she had no public complaints about the band during the prior 18 years she “volunteered” there, or when she received her “Most Inspirational Bandsman” award. Had the University elected to engage in a more thorough and proper investigation, or given other band members an opportunity to be heard, it would have discovered that Mr. Waters did, in fact, institute policies to protect against these issues.
• As Director, Jonathan Waters did, in fact, end “Midnight Ramp” in June 2014, and addressed it with squad leaders prior to that. While the University’s report conveys “Midnight Ramp” as an event where students were forced to march down the ramp in their underwear, had the University interviewed more aggregate sample of members, it would have learned two things. First, no student was forced to participate in any activity. If a student did not want to do it, they were not required. Second, “Underwear” was a figurative term. For some, underwear meant a pair of gym shorts and a tee shirt. For others it was, well….a birthday suit. A student specifically described (inaccurately so) in the University report as having an offensive nickname recently told the media, “I certainly never witnessed or experienced pressure from anybody in the band to do anything I was not comfortable with at all…It's a tradition meant to welcome people into the family and into the band. I did my first Midnight Ramp wearing a tank top and shorts that provided full coverage.” Her interview can be seen here:
Even Assistant Director Smith stated, “some students wore pajamas or shorts instead of underwear.” This serves as clear evidence that no one was forced to do anything. Nonetheless, in the face of years of tradition, Director Waters ordered such an event ended effective this coming year. (As a side note, the University’s report curiously fails to investigate whether other University officials “knew, or should have known” of “Midnight Ramp”, but simply places the blame solely on Mr. Waters. It is possible that a more thorough investigation of these concerns could leave the University with an egg on its face?).
• As Director, Jonathan Waters did, in fact, inform students that they needed to “go easy on the nicknames” and, as an Assistant Director, Mr. Waters actually disciplined a student for a highly offensive nickname. The University presents the thought that Mr. Waters had the authority to ban “nicknames” all together, but such would be ignorant of the fact that the nicknames were given from students to students outside of band, and such a policy would have no effect on the students in that situation. All Mr. Waters could do was try to control their use inside and outside of band, but as the report indicated, most offensive nicknames were kept away from band leadership. The report also embarrassingly misstates facts regarding these nicknames. While it speaks of “Jewboobs” being a nickname given to a jewish girl with big boobs, the University never actually made an effort to interview the woman who was given that name. Once interviewed by the media, she explained her nickname was actually “Joobs”, the jewish faith had nothing to do with it, and she consented to the nickname. She said investigators never contacted her and, if they had done so, she would have set the record straight. Her interview can be seen here:
• As Director, Jonathan Waters removed the term “Rookie” and replaced it with “First Year Member” in an effort to ensure that no student felt demeaned by the term.
• As a Director, Jonathan Waters ended the publication of the so called “Trip Tic.” This was another long standing tradition that Mr. Waters eliminated virtually as soon as he became director. The fact that the University report holds it against him for knowing of its existence when he ended its publication at the beginning of his reign is somewhat nonsensical. To quote one band member not interviewed by the University, “When he became director it was ended very forcefully.”
• As Director, Jonathan Waters had speakers come in to talk about alcohol and to discuss discrimination against women. This occurred during the 2013 season and was completely absent from the University report. Had the University interviewed additional students from that season, it likely would have discovered such.
• The University report publishes a “2006 Unofficial Songbook” as evidence that Jonathan Waters failed to take steps necessary to stop a sexualized culture, but failed to interview any reliable students regarding when and how often the book was referred to, or whether it was ever present at band functions. It also fails entirely to account for the fact that, by its own credits, it is created by students, for students. It also draws attention away from the fact that its newest “version” is eight years old, six years prior to Mr. Waters being named director, and there is no indication that leadership played any role in its creation. Had the University interviewed a larger collection of members, it would have been revealed that, anytime such publication was found by leadership, past and present, it was immediately confiscated, the student disciplined, and the document destroyed.
In essence, when the University chose to conduct its report at a time when so many individuals were not available and in a fashion that was designed to act quickly at the expense of thoroughness, the opinions of so many, including some un-interviewed persons who were actually represented in said report, had their stories of positivity, enthusiasm and “daily inspiration” silenced. Even if you take these few possibly misrepresented “worst cases” as true, the University cannot hide behind the fact that, these individuals and now hundreds, if not thousands of others, make it clear that now Former Director Jonathan Waters was actively taking steps to correct situations.
We, past and present members of the OSUMB, are a family. That is what we asked for, and that is promised each other, maybe not through an oath, maybe not in writing, but through our hard work and dedication to the same goals. We are committed to our music, our marching, our traditions, and to each other, and when one who we have so believed in and has been with us on that path for almost twenty years is shot down, mutilated, and embarrassed, in the blink of an eye, without due process, and without even the most remedial efforts to interview the very subjects of some of the allegations, we must stand up to defend him.
Interestingly enough, this is not the first time Ohio State’s new president has engaged upon such a quick-to-act hiring/firing path. He has already been forced to apologize to one prior institution for the sudden hiring, firing, and rehiring of a dean “without consulting senior faculty early enough or often enough”, and now it appears he may have done it again. While last time, he claimed to have “learned a painful lesson”, it seems to be more and more apparent that the lesson wasn’t strong enough. His story can be found here: It’s time to make a stand.
Jonathan Waters, you’ve been a wonderful leader, and brought about much needed change. You are an inspiration to us all, and we will not let you be the scapegoat for our actions, inactions, or misdeeds, whatever they may be.
O' Captain my Captain…….WB
Damian R. Sheets
T Row 2002-2003.