Report Finds OSU Band Culture Has Undercurrent of Inappropriate Behavior

Ohio State University task force makes several recommendations to improve band culture so it will comply with Title IX.

A review of the Ohio State University (OSU) band’s culture has found that the band has had an undercurrent of inappropriate behavior that sometimes violates band and school policy.
According to the study:

Although Band members, when interviewed, described or admitted that there were traditions and behaviors within the Band that were sometimes sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive, virtually none of the current Band members felt that the environment of the Band was in any way hostile or harassing to women, minorities, or gays. Indeed, most current Band members feel quite the opposite: the Band is an organization that cares solely about musical talent, regardless of gender, race, national origin, or sexual orientation.

A significant number of Band members, however, did raise concerns about the traditions in the Band involving alcohol use. A minority of Band members also raised issues with certain hazing practices of the Band that made them feel unwelcome and unsure of whether they wanted to participate in the Band.

The report recommends improved oversight of the band to address what the report claims has been its historical independence from the school. The band is housed in the school of music, but “Longstanding personality differences, mixed with unclear or unenforced lines of accountability have all helped facilitate the gradual and, it appears, often deliberate, move by the Band to isolate itself and secure the Band from University oversight,” the study claims. “Budget and staff deficiencies, as well as the Band’s performance excellence, have helped fuel the Band’s isolation, masking problems existing within the Band. In short, as long as the Band was performing well, the Band and its Director could and did become iconic, untouchable, and independent of effective University oversight.”

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Despite the band’s historic tensions with OSU’s school of music, it should remain in that department.
  • Create a provost-lead band coordinating committee (BCC) to meet at least monthly or more during the fall semester
  • Hire a compliance officer who would ensure the band complies with state and federal laws, university and band codes and policies, and institute regular training of band members
  • Clarify policies and procedures so that they apply both on band time and personal time
  • Reinforce policies that ban underage drinking and hazing
  • Provide mandatory training and refresher training for band directors and staff on Title IX, sexual harassment, sexual assault, the school’s code of conduct, the band’s standards of behavior, hazing, drug and alcohol use and abuse, and time and stress management
  • Provide training of band members on performance and conduct
  • Allow members to self-nominate for squad leader positions and update the squad leader selection process
  • Provide training in one-to-two hour sessions rather than all at once
  • Notify band directors of incidents involving band members
  • Train bus chaperones
  • Provide orientation for parents of band members

Other recommendations include revising band traditions or eliminating ones that could lead to abuse or hazing. Such banned practices include rookie tricks, mid-terms and the songbook. The report recommends reinstituting the rookie name tradition as long as the names are not inappropriate and are approved by the compliance officer.

Additional recommendations include adequately staffing the band and immediately filling the band secretary position. OSU should also consider both internal and external candidates, strive for staff diversity and conduct an annual workload review.

OSU band leader Jon Waters was fired in July after allegations surfaced that the band had a “sexualized” culture. A few dozen alumni, however, have come to his defense, claiming Waters was attempting to change the culture, which existed before he became director, reports

Read the full report, which includes several additional recommendations.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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