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Fired OSUMB Director Asks Board Of Trustees For Reinstatement

The Ohio State University Marching Band has a new roster for the 2014 season. And Thursday afternoon, some of those members, along with their interim directors, shared their thoughts about moving forward amid a scandal that cost them their director, who has requested the board of trustees reinstate him. The beginning of this year’s marching band season is likely not how any of the returning band members expected it to be. The afterglow of last year’s innovative half-time shows that brought The Best Damn Band In The Land world-wide attention was still shining. “I don’t agree with the situation, but we have to keep moving forward right now. We have a job to do," David Pettit, fifth-year band member, said. Pettit has a big job. He’s head drum major. Pettit also has to help lead new and less experienced band members into a season without former band director Jon Waters. Pettit said the investigation that cost Waters’ his job was “exaggerated.” He said Waters was taking steps to make the so-called “sexualized” culture better. “Even before Jon was fired, he called me into his office right after I won drum major and said I’m going to make some changes this year that aren’t going to be popular, but as a student leader you’re going to need to support us. And I said OK," Pettit said. "I’m just going to be a champion for culture change so nothing like this ever happens again.” According to Waters’ most recent performance evaluation, released Wednesday night, he was changing the culture. His former supervisor, the Music School director, wrote that he was “proud of the changes [Waters’] made” to make the band “an even healthier environment...than ever before.” “I do think that it’s a damning piece of evidence," David Axelrod, Waters’ attorney, said. Axelrod said the job evaluation shows the university knew about the problems with the band and the push back Waters received from alumni about eliminating some of the long-time traditions. “It shows that Jon was an exceptional employee, doing an exceptional job. And that’s why we have demanded his reinstatement. And that’s why we continue to demand his reinstatement.” Waters sent a letter to the OSU Board of Trustees requesting it reinstate him as band director at its next meeting. Wednesday, OSU President Michael Drake stood firm in the decision to fire Waters. When asked if the university should have reasonably known about the problems in the band given they were mentioned on multiple occasions in Waters’ performance review, spokesman Gary Lewis responded this way, "I think it’s important to separate the personnel evaluations that are very specific for an annual performance of every employee at the university, versus a 15-month evaluation of complaints that then led to a personnel action.” Interim associate director of bands Scott Jones said the impending season has kept him focused on students as the marching band remains in the spotlight of the scandal. Jones declined to say whether he thinks the report fairly characterizes the band’s culture. “I’m going to trust that the processes that are in place will lead to a right and just conclusion," Jones said. "In the meantime, I’m really just dedicating all of my energies to our students because that’s something I have control over.” Fourth-year band member and assistant drum major Nathan McMaster said he is disappointed the university terminated Waters. But McMaster shared the sentiment of “moving forward.” “We’re going to have an awesome season no matter what. We’re already off to a great start. I can’t believe how good the band sounds. And everyone is, despite some of our setbacks, everyone is just so excited for the season. It’s really remarkable.” New band member Meghan StClair is a fourth year student from Fostoria. StClair said overall the band’s mood is positive. And she added the scandal wasn’t going to deter her dream of marching in the band. “I didn’t want to graduate and look back and have regrets," she said. "So I just tried my best, went to all the summer sessions, worked my way up, and I guess it paid off.” Three-hundred-twenty-six people tried out for the marching band this year, slightly down from last year’s 332 candidates.