Eight Citadel cadets suspended over photos showing some in white hoods

Published: Dec. 10, 2015 at 3:40 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2015 at 3:28 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Officials at the Citadel Military College say eight cadets have been suspended as a result of photos that appear to show them wearing white sheets on their heads.

The pictures surfaced on social media Thursday morning.

According to college officials, a preliminary report states the cadets were singing Christmas carols as part of a "Ghosts of Christmas Past" skit.

Lieutenant General John W. Rosa, the president of the Citadel, released a statement in which he said that he was made aware Thursday morning of the social media post which he found "offensive and disturbing."

National Action Network officials announced Thursday night that they would be calling for Rosa's resignation.  According to a report by the Associated Press, Rosa said on Friday that he would not be stepping down.

A mandatory meeting was held on Thursday for all cadets in which Rosa addressed the entire Corps of Cadets regarding the photos.

An investigation into the photos was launched after a woman posted the photos to Facebook.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, told Live 5 News that the photos are screen grabs from videos she saw Wednesday night on the app Snapchat.

She says the videos were posted by a man who saw her on the dating app Tinder and then added her to Snapchat.

"I went to look at my Snapchat stories and he had posted a video of what looked like people dressed up in the white hoods and stuff and I was like that's really strange," the woman said.

According to the woman, the man posted more videos.

"Somebody in the video says, 'It's not what it looks like, they're supposed to be ghosts, not white supremacist members,'" the woman said. "People are laughing, you know, dancing around and stuff, singing Christmas carols."

The woman decided to get some screen grabs of the videos, and she posted them on Facebook.

"After I posted it, my roommate and some friends, they had talked to me about it," the woman said."And then I kind of realized that it would maybe be turned into a big thing but honestly at the beginning I didn't."

"Even if it's not offensive to you and you're not actually kind of portraying KKK members, it looks to me obviously like you are," she said.

Lieutenant General Rosa released the following statement on the social media post:

"A social media posting, which I find offensive and disturbing, was brought to my attention this morning. It shows an upper class cadet in front of seven cadets with pillowcases over their heads. In accordance with college policy, we immediately began suspension proceedings for those cadets known to be involved, and we are continuing to investigate this incident. Preliminary reports are cadets were singing Christmas carols as part of a "Ghosts of Christmas Past" skit. These images are not consistent with our core values of honor, duty and respect. We will provide more information upon completion of the investigation."

The Citadel Minority Alumni Association also released a statement on Thursday.

"We found the social media posting disgraceful. Regardless of the spin that one may try to assign to this type of behavior, the characterization of what took place was "not a mistake" that can simply be swept under the rug. We are pleased that Lt. General Rosa and his staff have taken swift action to address the situation and look forward to the results of his investigation; however, much more needs to be done to address the culture that continues to house recurring prejudices against minority cadets. At the very least, there needs to be a zero tolerance policy established immediately for racially charged and racially-motivated rhetoric and activity. Furthermore, increased funding should be committed to cultural competence and diversity training for the entire Corps of Cadets and staff on a regular basis. This is not the first, second or third time that racially charged events have been documented to have occurred at The Citadel. It is easy to try to isolate events of this sort to a single item or incident, which would, on its face, be a disservice to minority cadets who have and are currently attending The Citadel. This issue is much bigger. It's a cultural issue and it must be addressed and it must end now. When racist acts occur on campus, ALL students, black and white should feel the same degree of outrage that we do. As minority alumni and wearers of the ring, we expect The Citadel to carry out the core values of creating principled leaders…not racist leaders. These reprehensible behaviors are not indicative of actions in which principled leaders engage. Again, the activities that led to this social media posting were not a mistake and should be dealt with severely because symbols matter.

In the meantime, we will continue to do our due diligence and await the results of the Administration's investigation."

Officials say hearings for the cadets will be held shortly after they return from winter break. They expect to announce their findings in late January or early February.

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