Interviews, survey part of Ohio State band study

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The task force studying the culture inside Ohio State University's marching band is making "significant progress" and will release its findings in four to six weeks, its leader said in a letter to university officials Thursday.

Former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery told President Michael Drake and Board Chairman Jeffrey Wadsworth that about 140 people have been interviewed, and a detailed anonymous survey has been conducted of hundreds of band members going back to 2009.

The school requested Montgomery's review after the July 24 firing of band director Jonathan Waters in the wake of a university investigation. The two-month probe concluded that Waters knew about but failed to stop a "sexualized culture" of rituals that included groping games, explicit nicknames and marching partially clothed.

Waters has sued for reinstatement, citing lack of due process and gender discrimination. Another former Ohio attorney general, Jim Petro, is on Waters' legal team. In his official role, the state's current attorney general, Mike DeWine, represents the university.

Montgomery has said her task force will not revisit the firing, but is exploring the history of administration and policies surrounding the celebrated band's culture to recommend steps for future improvement.

She told Drake and Wadsworth that more than half of the 60- to 90-minute interviews conducted so far have been with current or former band members.

"The Task Force is working diligently to perform a thorough review and has been fortunate to receive an overwhelming response to its several outreach efforts from members of the Ohio State Marching Band community and the larger community regarding the current culture of the band," she wrote.

Waters' firing has been met with vocal protests, especially by the alumni association representing what's known to fans as The Best Damn Band in the Land.

The TBDBITL Alumni Club staged a pro-Waters flyover at the university's September board meeting and has issued a report challenging findings of the university's investigation. Band alumni and past Director Paul Droste have suggested many of the rituals for which Waters was fired have been practiced for years, if not decades, with the university's knowledge and tacit approval.

They suggest Waters was scapegoated by a newly hired president to appease the U.S. Department of Education, which has reached a settlement with the university over its handling of sexual assault cases since he was fired.

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