Ohio State’s Band Facing Hazing Allegations Over Michael Jackson Routine

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  • Ohio State University has fired its band director over allegations of hazing.

    The New York Times reports:

    The report, by the Office of University Compliance and Integrity at Ohio State, described the hazing as being by students against other students, particularly new band members, but said that the band’s director, Jon Waters, did not do enough to stop it.

    “The misconduct described is highly sexual, frequent, and longstanding as part of the marching band’s culture,” it said.

    The practices detailed in the report had gone on for years, even decades, while Mr. Waters, 38, was the band director for less than two years, noted his lawyer, David F. Axelrod.

    “Jon worked as hard as was humanly possible, within the constraints imposed on him, to reform that culture,” Mr. Axelrod said. He said he could not respond to specific claims, but he pointed out that university investigators had interviewed a small fraction of the people associated with the band — five current and five former members, in a band numbering more than 200 — and that some witnesses were referred by the person who had made the complaint.

    The university announced that a task force of outsiders, led by a former Ohio state attorney general, would conduct a more complete investigation. “Even one instance of harassment or hazing or assault is one too many,” said Michael V. Drake, who became Ohio State’s president less than a month ago.

    A surge in legal complaints and tighter scrutiny by the federal government have prompted colleges around the country to take a harder line against harassment, binge drinking and hazing. While fraternities have drawn much of the attention, other insular groups with their own rituals, including clubs and sports teams, have also come in for criticism. A student’s death at Florida A&M University in 2011 was attributed to hazing by the marching band.

    The Ohio State investigation, prompted by a parent’s complaint, found traditions like assigning new members sexually explicit nicknames and ordering them to do lewd things like mimic sex acts. In one case, the report said, a girl was told to perform such an act on her brother.

    A physical therapist who worked with the band told Mr. Waters, “If I have to hear the words ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ one more time, I’m going to scream,” according to the report. Last fall, after volunteering with the band for 18 years, she quit.

    When investigators asked him “to estimate how many current nicknames are sexual or offensive, Mr. Waters responded that ‘fifty percent’ probably were ‘questionable,’ ” the report said. “When asked whether he thought such sexual nicknames are appropriate, Waters answered, ‘No.’ When asked why he then tolerates such sexual nicknames, Waters replied, ‘Good point.’ ”

    But on that score and several others, the report said, Mr. Waters and his top aides told investigators that they had curbed the misconduct, and that conditions were much improved in recent years. He said he had ordered an end to the midnight underwear marches and believed that some of the other practices in the report were also in the past.

    “Several students stated that alcohol use and abuse is a large part of the marching band’s culture,” the report said, a point also made by the physical therapist. Mr. Waters acknowledged to investigators that alcohol abuse was a “big problem,” and that it was involved in the sexual assault last fall of one band member by another, who was later expelled from the university.

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    (Photo Source: The NY Times)

     

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