CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The president of The Citadel says he has no intentions of resigning after controversial pictures of cadets were released on Thursday.
Citadel President John Rosa said he would not be stepping down even though civil rights activists have called for his resignation, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Rosa's contract was extended this past summer until 2018 at which point he plans to retire.
When the photos of cadets wearing white sheets on their heads were called to his attention Thursday morning, Rosa released a statement calling the social media post "offensive and disturbing," and said suspension proceedings for the cadets involved had begun.
National Action Network officials were demanding Rosa's resignation Friday morning during a press conference in front of the school.
State NAN President Elder James Johnson said Rosa should be held accountable after pictures of cadets wearing sheets on their heads were discovered on social media.
"Accountability starts at the top," said Johnson about what he believes to be a hazing incident that drew national attention to the state's only military college.
He also called for the expulsion of all students involved in the incident, the removal of the Confederate flag from the Summerall Chapel on The Citadel's campus, and funding on all government levels to be pulled from the college.
Johnson said he would also contact the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the incident.
"This type of hazing has been going on for years," he said.
Elder Johnson said the incident is a slap in the face after the mass shooting that killed nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in June.
"What those students and the leadership have done has opened a wound," he said.
Johnson said the school was a hostile environment for minority students and a zero tolerance for racism needed to be introduced on campus. He said he has reached out to The Citadel but has not received a response.
"It was wrong, and it upsets me what they did," said JD McNair about the photos.
McNair, whose son attends The Citadel, also said,"But I don't think the president should be demanded to resign for that, it makes no sense."
"I was not shocked," said Citadel graduate student Orianna Baham."Because there's incidents like this that happen frequently."
Several lawmakers released statements about as the news of the photos unfolded.
On Thursday, democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley also called for the removal of the campus's Confederate flag. On Friday, candidate Hillary Clinton also said it was time for the Confederate flag to come down at the Citadel.
"Symbols of hate create more hate," said Clinton in a tweet after the National Action Network's press conference.
Rep. Wendell G. Gilliard released the following statement:
I would like to take this opportunity to express my opinions on the incident that occurred at The Citadel. It is inexcusable act that several Citadel cadets appeared on social media dressed in costumes resembling the Ku Klux Klan. This heinous act was committed in close proximity to Mother Emanuel AME Church and with the recent Walter Scott shooting, this adds insult to injury. The action by the cadets warrants nothing short of an expulsion for all those who are found to be involved in the this intolerable act of hate. I am stalwartly requesting a meeting with Citadel President, Ret. Lt. General John Rosa, to discuss this matter in great detail.
Sen. Marlon Kimpson also released a statement:
This kind of behavior is absolutely unacceptable and these students should be expelled. They have dishonored The Citadel, the people of Charleston, and the people of South Carolina. I have spoken to General Rosa and he has assured me that pending the outcome of the school's investigation, whatever action that is within his power he will take, including expulsion. Yet we cannot be satisfied by simply punishing this bad behavior. We must uproot it forever. Flying the Confederate flag in Summerall Chapel damages our community, our spirit as a people and gives comfort to the students who committed this act. Taking it down from the inside of the chapel should be the first step towards moving forward. We must follow the flag's removal from the chapel with substantive and progressive action so that students have mutual respect for one another.