Monday, July 28, 2014

Sara Frankart Finn

Dear Dr. Drake,

I am writing to you in response to the events of the past week. I hope that you will take the opinions of the many who are writing you to heart and consider reinstating Jon Waters as the director of the marching band.

I am an alumnus of The Ohio State University School of Music and a proud five-year member of the OSUMB. I am also a veteran of the US Army and Operation Enduring Freedom. I hold an MBA, I work for a large non-profit organization, and I am a parent. I, like my other fellow TBDBITL alumni, am an upstanding member of my community who has always been proud to share my Buckeye roots. However before attending Ohio State I was a student at a small Christian college in Ohio. While I was there I was a victim of a sexual assault. I transferred to OSU because as a result of that assault I no longer felt safe at my small, sheltered, morally upright school. I share this very personal part of my life with you not to elicit sympathy, or to sensationalize my story, but so you will understand the enormity of what I say next. 

In my five years in the band I never felt coerced, harassed, or threatened in any manner, especially sexually. In fact it was quite the opposite. I found a place where I was accepted and respected because I worked hard and earned my spot in exactly the same way as everyone else. The only thing that could set me apart would be not doing my part to uphold the tradition of excellence that we had the honor to protect for a short time. I learned the true value of hard work and discipline. I became part of something greater than myself as I represented the other 224 members of the band, the band alumni from the 100+ years before me, and the great University I loved. We left our sweat, tears, and blood on the field and were rewarded with the pride earned in a job well done and knowing that we were among the best in the world. I found a family of brothers and sisters who I knew would support and protect me if I ever needed it. Maybe most importantly I found an atmosphere that empowered all its members to be the best that they could be, to transcend any perceived barriers and to become strong men and women regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or any other characteristics that might be a crutch in other areas of life. We carry that with us for our lifetimes, and even as I have traveled the world my band family remains some of my closest friends.

As much pride as I hold in my days in the band, it was with great awe and respect that I watched the transformation Jon Waters had begun to undertake in the past few years. I knew Jon as a young member of the band and in his various roles with it as a man who was kind and smart and always stood for the right things. I heard many stories through various venues of the changes Jon was attempting to bring to the culture of the band as head director, a culture that has been ingrained for more years than you or I have been on this planet and was resistant to change, but was coming around. I had no doubt that he was the right man to take the helm because of the accolades he was earning for the band and the incredible exposure his innovation was bringing to TBDBITL in particular and to marching bands as a whole. A quick search of YouTube shows the evidence of the wild popularity of his shows. Searching for videos of just three shows he wrote (the Hollywood Blockbuster show, the Michael Jackson show, and the one that started the viral sensation, the Video Game show) brings back 22 videos that have a combined 48 million views. Let that number sink in for a minute. Forty-eight MILLION times that these three shows have been viewed. He was bringing marching band to people who never had an appreciation for it before, and raising incredible good will for the arts and for OSU.
Now in one fell swoop my alma mater, the place I love and cherish, has besmirched what I hold so dear. The name of the Marching Band has been dragged through the mud and the media has vilified us. We have been told that we should hang our heads in shame because we were once young adults who joked and ribbed each other and yes, maybe made some questionable decisions. But we did it in an environment where were we safe to be completely ourselves, to find out who we were and what we really believed about ourselves and the world. Perhaps worst of all, we collectively have been opened up to harassment and verbal assaults through the actions of the university we love so much who decided to release our secrets, our nicknames, our traditions to a world that has no context in which to understand our actions. A world that quivers in excitement at the upcoming release of a movie about bondage, that sensationalizes and normalizes sex at every turn, but yet makes young adults feel they should be criminalized for the actions they take in their own time and in their own homes. Worst of all I read all these things revealed in a one-sided report from a committee that spoke with a tiny percentage of the recent members of the band and in fact made no effort to speak to most of those who were allegedly coerced and harassed. A committee that ignored the numerous underwear 5k events sweeping the nation in an effort to make our Midnight Ramp something dirty, something it never was, while it apparently forgot that many university officials outside the band were aware of and sanctioned its existence. The sloppy, misguided, and premature release of this report has given a very real black eye to OSU and the OSUMB and could have very real negative personal and professional implications for people who have long been out of band. To say I am horrified and offended at the way this situation has been handled is a huge understatement.
I will never be ashamed of my time in The Best Damn Band In The Land, but I now feel shame that my beloved Ohio State has turned its back on us. I hope this is not the atmosphere you wish to create in your time at the helm.
Sara Frankart Finn
OSUMB E-Row 1992-96

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