CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - "Don't make judgment on the entire school, what the Citadel stands for, just based on the ignorance of a small handful of cadets," said Citadel grad Bill Rowell.
That was Rowell's plea after several pictures gained national attention.
The photos show cadets wearing pillow cases over their heads that appear to look like hoods worn by the Ku Klux Klan.
Rowell, class of 1977, fears the school he's proud to call his Alma Mater is being looked down upon based on the actions of eight cadets.
"You almost get sick to your stomach," said Rowell. "There's so many positive things about what's happened at the Citadel today and this event has overshadowed all of that."
The cadets claim they didn't have harmful intentions.
Local activists say it wasn't a good move.
"It wasn't fun," said vice president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP Rev. Joe Darby. "It wasn't fun at the turn of the century when people brought their wives and children out to picnics and got lynchings. This is no less ugly than that."
Rev. Darby said this incident is part of a bigger problem.
"America still has to work its way through its own problem with race," said Rev. Darby. "We have not worked through that yet. You can change laws, but you can't change hearts."
Rev. Darby hopes the school will take more action and people everywhere will learn for this situation.
"We're in an age where everybody has a camera in their pocket, on their phone," said Rev. Darby. "So, those who are going to be bigoted need to be careful where they practice their bigotry."
Rowell hopes the cadets know their actions reflect more than themselves.
"It was gross, poor judgment," said Rowell. "They should have realized that it would have much larger ramifications."
Citadel's President Lt. General John Rosa called the pictures offensive and disturbing.
The eight cadets have been suspended.
The incident is under investigation.