The Oregon Crusaders response to the December 13, 2018 Philadelphia Inquirer Article “A Failure to Protect”

A Philadelphia Inquirer story this week included a drum corps instructor named Mike Stevens as being among several individuals engaged in inappropriate behavior. Stevens had been a contractor with the Oregon Crusaders until he was forced to resign in November 2017, following an investigation by the OC Board of Directors regarding allegations of misconduct.

As President of the Board, I take full responsibility, and want to express my heartfelt sympathy, compassion and sincerest apologies to those who shared their stories, and who felt mistreated or unsupported at the Oregon Crusaders. We wrote a letter back in April in response to this reporter’s previous story about drum corps, in which we reaffirmed our organization’s ongoing commitment to the health, safety, and growth of all individuals who are part of our organization.

In the April letter, we stressed that the Oregon Crusaders takes the topic of sexual misconduct very seriously, and that we had already expanded and strengthened our policies and procedures to include systematic background checks of our staff and volunteers, and bolstered our member and staff codes of conduct.

Pure and simple, the OC Board of Directors has a duty to stop sexual and workplace harassment before it occurs, to investigate allegations thoroughly and impartially, and to take prompt action upon learning of harassment allegations, particularly in the current #metoo environment. Our top priority is to ensure an environment that is safe for all individuals and that everyone has a clear and direct avenue to report grievances, which can be reported at http://oregoncrusaders.org/whistleblower.

The Philadelphia Inquirer article is true in stating that the Board and I were deeply shocked when we met with Ms. Spangler, who brought to light allegations made by her and a number of women in our organization regarding Mike Stevens back in November 2017. We put Stevens on administrative leave within 24 hours, and within another week of examination we were planning to terminate him. He resigned, we accepted the resignation, and then we publicly thanked him for his time at OC. In hindsight, it was a grave mistake to publicly thank him for his time with us. To the women who took offense to our lack of sensitivity, I apologize.

But I will also state emphatically that it’s not enough to apologize, or to point out policies and procedures. We must have full accountability, as well as a deep and shared conviction to make things decidedly better so that the entire drum corps activity can move forward.

There is an unspoken truth in the drum corps activity–the “elephant in the room”–that we need a more thorough method of vetting staff across the entire drum corps activity. Background checks are not enough. Personal local references are not enough. Even reference verification calls to prior employers are not enough, as employment law prevents disclosure of confidential personnel information. We did conduct repeated background checks and reference checks of Mr. Stevens, and they clearly were not enough.

We need to address this problem head on, and find a more systematic way to gather and share staff information. With this in mind, I am going to propose to my fellow drum corps board representatives that we consider a database of paid and volunteer staff members that can be shared between the corps, and that conforms to all employment laws. I will do so in a few weeks at the DCI annual meeting.

While the governing body of drum corps has promised to do more to keep members and employees safe, we know that we have to set our own bar for success. We have established and empowered a Human Resources Committee to make sure we don’t just create policies that sit on a shelf, but that get implemented through training and undergo an ongoing process of refinement. We can do more, and we will do more to become a leader on this topic.

I hope I speak for those in the drum corps community in expressing our gratitude to Tricia Nadolny and the Philadelphia Inquirer for bringing this issue of sexual misconduct and the need for additional solutions for staff vetting front and center for our activity. No matter how hard it might be to address this issue, or to admit the errors of the past, it will be nowhere near as hard as it was for Melody Romo, Anna Spangler, Liana Bernard, Robyn Schroeder and Meyer Anne Hudson to share their stories and show their collective strength. We owe it to them to go to the next step, to ask tough questions, and to find solutions. With more shared knowledge, we believe we can achieve more shared responsibility.

With our love, respect, and great hope for all that this amazing activity brings to us,

Dr. Phil Marshall

President, Board of Directors

Oregon Crusaders

drphil@oregoncrusaders.org