Hazing News

The Ohio State University marching band scandal explained

Moderator:  Today’s Columbus Dispatch reporter Collin Binkley breaks down some of the serious allegations of hazing that also include some related or unrelated criminal allegations and claims.

Brief excerpt from a well-researched story:

All of it was, by many accounts, the Ohio State University marching band way. Fun.

But beneath the high jinks that investigators found were part-and-parcel of being a band member runs a darker undercurrent that surfaced in serious ways. It was more than silly, investigators discovered: A student reported being raped. Band leaders mishandled a report of sexual harassment. Alcohol abuse ran rampant and, at times, became dangerous.

OSU investigators revealed those details in a report that led to the firing of band director Jonathan Waters last week and described what the report called a “sexualized” culture in the band.

Many of the starkest revelations, though, are footnotes to the extensive list of traditions that some found offensive. Words such as hazing andabuse are mostly absent, but experts said they apply here.

“I see the events clearly within the category of hazing,” said Elizabeth Allan, a professor at the University of Maine and head of the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention.

Waters has declined to comment, but his attorney said the ousted director plans to defend his name.

An online petition asking OSU to reinstate Waters rapidly gained hundreds of backers yesterday. At last night’s Picnic With the Pops concert Downtown, dozens of supporters flashed signs supporting Waters and a plane flew over pulling a “We stand with Jon” banner.

Investigators found that Waters failed to schedule sexual-harassment training after he bungled a complaint from a female student in the athletic band. He tried to exclude both the woman and the male student from a band trip. Legal officials at Ohio State stopped Waters, saying the punishment could be seen as retaliation against a victim and would violate federal laws.

Only months later, a conduct board at Ohio State expelled a member of the marching band after finding that he had sexually assaulted a female band member. In a band of 225 students, there have been at least three complaints of sexual assault or harassment in the past three years.

There’s a common root, several experts said, linking the daily jibes that might pass without harm and the serious offenses that leave wounds.

“The ‘smaller’ kinds of offenses can set the stage for the escalation,” Allan said. “I think that they hit the nail on the head when they talked about this idea of it being a culture.”

Ohio State started investigating two months ago after a band member’s mother complained about that culture. Investigators found that many of the worst traditions have been around for decades, even though there appeared to be few complaints. In these types of cases, researchers said, students often tolerate discomfort with obscene traditions in exchange for being part of a prestigious group.

It is, after all, known as “The Best Damn Band in the Land” — with a capital T on the — and TBDBITL, an equally familiar moniker among members and alumni. Students took oaths to keep its traditions secret.

“There’s a powerful need to belong,” said Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College, near Indianapolis, who has researched and written books on hazing. “There is a need to be in a group and to have camaraderie, and none of us can get enough of that kind of familiar support.”

Read more at the Columbus Dispatch site


By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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