COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A witness in the investigation of Ohio State’s marching band says it’s “absurd” to suggest fired director Jonathan Waters was dismissive of sexual harassment.
Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month investigation concluded he knew about but failed to stop a “sexualized culture” of rituals including students marching partially clad and performing sexually themed stunts that led to sometimes explicit nicknames.
In a letter to President Michael Drake and trustees obtained Monday by The Associated Press, the witness said she was sexually assaulted in high school and Waters protected her by involving stadium security when the perpetrator’s relatives showed up at a band rehearsal.
“Mr. Waters cares deeply about the well-being of his students both mentally and physically, and the idea that he would be dismissive of sexual harassment is absurd,” she wrote.
The AP generally does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.
The woman said investigators omitted her positive experiences with Waters from their final report despite her going “to great lengths and detail about the many ways in which Mr. Waters personally helped me in tough situations.”
She said the investigation report also misconstrued her statements regarding a meeting with Waters at which he cursed. She said he did not curse directly at her, as the report stated.
The letter, dated Sunday, comes as Waters and his supporters lobby for his reinstatement. The university has stood by its decision and questioned Waters’ claims he was working to address band culture.
Waters led the band since 2012 and created halftime shows considered revolutionary. Videos of the morphing and dancing images the band creates on the field have drawn millions of hits on YouTube and landed it in an Apple commercial.
Drake, president for three weeks at the time of Waters’ firing, has said he’ll have a zero tolerance policy toward harassment.
Messages left Monday with a university spokesman weren’t immediately returned.