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.

Sincerely,

Brianne Reiss

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