I want to write about the situation with the OSU Marching Band. I want to share my rather strong opinion. I might. I’ve been trying all day to distill my thoughts into something manageable, something succinct. Right now, though, I just want to know what I missed. How are there all these women up in arms because Jon Waters was fired? How are all these women, particularly the alumnae of the band, defending him?
You’re going to answer that with the “Letter to President Drake” by Alex Clark, AKA “Joobs,” aren’t you? Or maybe you want to point me to a gay alumnus and his feeling that the atmosphere was not unsafe for himself or the women he shared the field with. Or maybe just another mommy blogger like myself who was happy to be a band member in the 80s and thinks this has all been blown out of proportion.
I’ve read all of these blogs/articles/letters and several others as well. I’ve read the entire report of the investigation. I’ve argued with my mother and random strangers while browsing the OSU merchandise at the State Fair this week. I’ve wrestled with my own thoughts and even prayed about it. But I keep coming to the same conclusions. Nobody seems to get it. Nobody seems to be able to accept that Waters had to go because he allowed a climate where someone MIGHT (and likely would have been) harassed, not because any one witness or named member WAS harassed.
I’m sorry, Alex Clark. It simply doesn’t matter that you don’t feel sexualized by a nickname that combines your religious heritage with the size of your chest. The nickname is inappropriate and crass at best, lewd and harassing at least. Just because you liked it, just because YOU (or your parents, for that matter) were comfortable with it does not in any way make it okay. I’m not telling you how to feel. You get to feel how you want, and frankly your feelings about it are irrelevant. You don’t feel harassed or sexualized? Fine. But you cannot speak for every “Rookie” that heard your nickname and wondered what hers would be. You can’t say those nicknames didn’t feed a certain atmosphere that MIGHT have ALLOWED sexual harassment. And that is enough for the person in charge to lose his job. It just is.
Maybe I’m talking in absolutes. Maybe that’s the problem here? Maybe I should accept that sexual harassment can be acceptable if the person likes it? REALLY? REALLY!! I should accept some minimal level of sexual harassment because that’s what kids DO? Sorry, folks, can’t go there.
So let me make sure I cover all the arguments:
1. The named student didn’t feel harassed and always felt they could easily have opted out of activities like “Midnight Ramp” with no repercussions. Um, no. Just no. The fact that names referring to body parts EXIST, the fact that ANYONE is marching in their underwear, creates a hostile environment for SOMEONE. The “final” test, shown as Exhibit A with the investigation report, included a question asking the rookie to rank other band members by the size of their genitals. This does not go on, unchecked, in a vacuum. None of you will convince me that the very EXISTENCE of this question didn’t make anyone uncomfortable. Ever?
2. This is just what kids, particularly college kids, do to “blow off steam.” This sounds dangerously like “boys will be boys.” It is not some sort of huge leap to say that this kind of thinking is EXACTLY why rape culture still exists. It may be true that this is the sort of behavior that kids engage in regularly, and have forever, but that doesn’t mean the institution, or even the group leader, accepts it. And this bit about the culture change being a “process” is crap, too. Yeah, it’s a change that takes time, but we don’t have to be gentle about it. There’s nothing in the report about Waters making a blanket statement that these practices would be unacceptable moving forward. At no time did Waters ask for HELP in changing the culture. His loyalty was to the kids engaging in the inappropriate behavior not to the institution signing his paycheck, or putting their reputation in his hands, or to the SAFETY and welfare of those same kids.
3. Waters is a scapegoat. Others were involved and should also be reprimanded or fired. It’s entirely possible that others should be punished. It’s true that others knew and didn’t report these behaviors or work to change them. It’s true that the students involved should be punished. But none of these statements back the idea that Waters should be reinstated or shouldn’t have been fired. He’s not a scapegoat. He was in charge of a HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT. He had to go.
4. This has been going on for generations. Do I really have to reply to this one? “We’ve always done it this way” just never flies.
The first paragraph of “Analysis” in the report sums it perfectly for me.
Each of the allegations about the Marching Band’s culture discussed above implicates university
policy and federal prohibitions on sexual harassment. While some of the students may have engaged
in such behavior and gave no indication that they objected, the interviews highlighted multiple
situations in which students did not welcome this misconduct. In a culture so sexualized for so long,
students’ acquiescence and failure to complain cannot be taken as evidence that the range of this
misconduct was welcome.