The Ohio State University marching band director who was fired over the salacious behavior of band members defended himself Tuesday, claiming he was working to change a decades-long culture of sexually themed hazing – and saying he’d love to have his “dream job” back.
“This is an entrenched culture that dates back to the 1930s,” Jonathan Waters told NBC’s Today show. “And because it’s entrenched, it doesn’t turn on a dime.”
Calling the university report that led to his firing “flawed,” “inaccurate” and “one-sided,” Waters said many of the behaviors it cited happened before he took over in 2012. Since then, Waters said, he has instituted leadership training, sex-abuse training and alcohol-abuse training.
“Let me be very clear that harassment is not tolerated, and should not be tolerated,” he said.
As band leader, Waters has created halftime shows that are considered revolutionary. Videos of the morphing and dancing images the band creates on the field have drawn millions of views on YouTube and landed it in an Apple commercial.
On Tuesday, Waters said that kind of achievement just doesn’t happen if the culture is oppressive. “All of those wonderful things we see on the field were also happening in the hearts and souls of our band members,” said.
Asked if he would want his old job back, Waters replied: “I love Ohio State, and I would love the opportunity to work with the university to improve the culture.”
Ohio State president Michael Drake has said the marching-band culture hostile to students that was uncovered by investigators was demeaning and unacceptable. He has enlisted former Ohio attorney general Betty Montgomery to lead a task force in a full review.
Friends of Waters, meanwhile, have established a legal assistance fund – the Marching for Waters Fund – to help him tell his side of the story.
• With additional reporting by ASSOCIATED PRESS