OSU to marching band: forcing members to do pushups is physical abuse

Anthony Gockowski
Investigative Reporter

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  • Ohio State has banned senior marching band members from assigning rookie members with traditional first-year duties.
  • Image from Ohio State Band Twitter

    Ohio State University (OSU) recently banned senior members of its prestigious marching band from assigning rookie members with traditional first-year duties, according to a report from Rolling Stone.

    According to the report, anything resembling corporal discipline, such as carrying water jugs to and from the practice field, is now banned, and mistakes usually deemed reprehensible can longer be punished with a quick lap or a single pushup. In fact, squad leaders, who traditionally discipline their respective rows, no longer have disciplinary authority over lower ranking members. Some squad leaders worry the new rules will prevent them from properly conditioning their rows for the physical demands of a big event.

    “The band actually was one of the places where I felt the most safe."   

    “For the drum-major program, athletic training is a big component,” Nate MacMaster, the band's drum major tasked with leading drills, said. “So we would play games where, if you drop the trick, then you had to do a pushup. We talked to the university and found out that’s considered physical punishment, so I can’t, as a squad leader, tell my drum-major-in-training, ‘You made a mistake. You have to do a pushup.’”

    The OSU marching band is a staple of the Buckeye community and has been around longer than the football team itself. The band gained national attention in 2012 after a series of halftime shows went viral on YouTube. A moonwalking Michael Jackson, an in-flight Superman, and a flouncing dinosaur put the band in the national spotlight, with each video getting at least 12 million YouTube views. The Buckeye marching band, under the tutelage of genius-director Jon Waters, quickly became what some call the most impressive marching band in the nation.

    In 2014, a string of sexual assault accusations tarnished the band’s reputation and Waters was immediately exiled from Buckeye nation. The university launched an internal investigation, with a consecutive follow-up investigation, exposing many shady rituals in the band’s culture.

    The report, according to Rolling Stone, struggled to describe one ritual called “flying 69” in which rookie members found their faces in the laps of other band members.

    Another tradition of the band was to give first-year members unseemly nicknames, such as “Tits McGee,” “Twinkle Dick,” and “Doctor Faggot.” The band’s new Title IX compliance officer now has to approve all nicknames.

    The U.S. Department of Education eventually listed OSU among schools being investigated for violating federal laws by mishandling sexual assault claims.

    Since the scandal, the band has struggled to regain its reputation. Despite the questionable moral caliber of the band, some former members said it was a safe environment, and the report did not accurately represent the band.

    "The hardest part about last year for us was the hurt we felt when we saw this organization we loved so much go through the mud like that," MacMaster told Rolling Stone. "I read the report when it came out, and I thought, 'I don't even know this band,' because it's just not who we are. We love this band. And we kind of came together and decided we could control how we're represented from now on. That's the only way we could cope with what happened."

    Another student said she felt safer around her fellow band members than she did anywhere else on campus.

    “The band actually was one of the places where I felt the most safe,” Jocelyn Smallwood, the first black woman to join the band, said. “I knew that if there was anyone that messed with me, be it somebody outside of the band or inside the band, I had 28 people who would step up in a second and take care of me.”

    Smallwood said there were times when she felt uncomfortable on campus, but never around her fellow band members.

    “These problems are not unique to the band,” she said. “These are problems that are all over campus.”

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    Anthony Gockowski

    Anthony Gockowski

    Investigative Reporter

    Anthony Gockowski is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. He has previously worked for The Daily Caller, Intercollegiate Review, and The Catholic Spirit.

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