CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An independent task force will look into culture and sex discrimination in the running of Ohio State University’s famous marching band after its director was fired for failing to address alleged sexual harassment of its members, the university said on Friday.
The university said band Director Jonathan Waters was dismissed on Thursday for failing to address the group’s “sexualized culture,” which a report said included a practice in underwear and rituals simulating sex acts.
Waters and other staff, “knew or reasonably should have known about the culture but failed to eliminate the sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects,” said a 92-page report released this week after an internal investigation.
The task force review, to be led by former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, will be more far-reaching and will include nationally recognized experts, the university said.
More than 400 students try out each year for 225 spots in the band, known by students and alumni as “The Best Damn Band in the Land.” The brass and percussion band has hugely popular videos on YouTube, and has released many music albums.
The parent of a band member triggered the investigation after complaining that “the Band’s culture was sexualized and that its members were made to swear secrecy oaths about objectionable traditions and customs,” the report said.
The alleged sexual harassment of band members included an annual tradition of marching across the field in their underwear, at times under Waters’ supervision, and the use of nicknames such as “Boob Job” and “Testicles” printed in a directory and worn on T-shirts.
The report also stated that students were expected to perform tricks including a female student sitting on laps and pretending to orgasm. Band and staff interviewed also admitted to a long-standing tradition of rewriting and singing songs to contain misogynistic and alternate sexual lyrics to OSU and numerous other collegiate songs.
Waters had been director since October 2012 after serving as interim director and was an OSU student from 1995-99.
Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Jim Loney