As a female former member of The Ohio State University Marching Band in the late 90s, I have been heartbroken reading and following online the firing of my friend, Jonathan Waters, and have been compelled to write in his and my beloved OSUMB’s defense here on my blog.
My first introduction to the OSU Marching Band was in High School, when our concert band went on a trip to Columbus and ended up in the Stadium Band Room (the old one), for a presentation by Dr. Jon Woods. We watched a video of the band, and I just knew it was for me.
I (just like Jonathan Waters) was cut my freshman year of college from the OSU Marching Band. I was heartbroken because I came from Louisville, Kentucky to OSU because I wanted to be in the band. I loved (and still do) their discipline and perfection on the field. I tried out my sophomore year and made the band. While a member of the band, there were fraternal social customs that went on that I did not participate in nor feel threatened to participate in if I did not want to. More often, I was protected and always given an out by the upperclass in my row, both men and women. I had more big brothers and big sisters looking out for me than I could have ever imagined.
I am a Christian and was a Christian while in the band. While I chose not to participate in some of the cultural norms of the band, I never saw anyone coerced into participating if they did not want to, and participation in “off the field” events did, in no way threaten their marching spot in their row or influence Monday challenge outcomes.
The band helped me be the person I am today. It took this naïve girl and taught me what goes on in the world, both the good and the bad. It showed me that in every situation, it’s MY decision to choose to participate or not. As a Christian, I could have quit the band at the first sign of something I didn’t believe in, but I was trained better than that. There will always be things going on around me that I do not believe in. I chose to stay in the band and tried to be a positive influence on my friends.
I have read the report and the allegations against my friend, Jon Waters and the band. I am sickened to read the media writing about something they know NOTHING about. I experienced more sexual harassment working the night shift at Meijer stocking groceries one summer than I ever did in my three years in the band.
The OSUMB made me strong and disciplined. Any group who trains hard and strives for perfection will blow off steam when they’re not “on the field”. Although I don’t agree with all actions and believe that some of the traditions need to be removed or changed, I don’t feel that a voluntary event of “marching in your underwear” (just to name one) taints college kids’ minds. If you can march ramp in your underwear, you can march in full uniform in front of over 100,000 people.
I agree with Sonny Fulks in his article from the PressPros Magazine, “Opinion: Culture of the OSU Band not Jon Waters’ Fault…!” (http://pressprosmagazine.com/culture-of-the-osu-band-not-jon-waters-fault/). He says, “No, if you want to blame someone for what goes on in the OSU band, blame yourself…and the culture of America that has generally become “sexualized”, and accepted, apparently.” Kids did not learn these behaviors in the band, they knew them way before they landed at OSU, or any other college campus for that matter.
Now, as a mom of three boys, I am training them to be strong and make good decisions. Although they are small, I hope and pray they will be men of honor when they grow up. Men who look out for each other and others (as my OSU bandmates did for me), who honor and respect women as their father respects me, and who are capable of making their own decisions and owning the consequences of bad ones.
Since being in the band, I have worked on university campuses. My experiences in the band have given me greater perspective on the things that go on with kids on college campuses. Jonathan Waters was the man best equipped to lead the OSUMB both on and off the field. He was making necessary changes to the cultural climate of the band behind the scenes, while we all watched on YouTube the wonderful shows that were being performed on the field. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks overnight, as seem to be the expectations of President Drake, who has only been in office for three weeks. Your actions have hurt a century old organization and the entire university. I do not know what you were trying to prove by firing Mr. Waters, but I know what you proved to me…that you know nothing about the OSUMB and nothing about preserving one of the best things about the university – it’s band.
To the OSUMB – hold your head high, turn your corners square, and drive, drive, DRIVE!
To Jonathan Waters – hold your head high and drive through it. We love you and stand with you.