The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, began to suspend students Thursday after photos surfaced on social media showing a group of cadets wearing white hoods similar to those used by the Ku Klux Klan. The school's president, retired Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, released a statement on Facebook condemning the participants and confirming an investigation was underway.
"Preliminary reports are cadets were singing Christmas carols as part of a 'Ghosts of Christmas Past' skit," he wrote, adding that the costumes were pillowcases. "These images are not consistent with our core values of honor, duty and respect."
The Post and Courier of Charleston reported that the photos were posted online after a woman saw them on Snapchat. Rosa said eight people were involved, including at least one upperclassman.
— Kyle Jordan (@KyleLive5) December 10, 2015
Administrators reportedly called a mandatory meeting Thursday to discuss the pictures. The school, which serves about 3,400 students, is about 2 miles away from the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where nine people were fatally shot by a white gunman June 17.
Citadel cadets leaving McCallister Field House after mandatory meeting regarding the photos of cadets in KKK hoods. pic.twitter.com/tQ9XRUi3i5
— Deanna Pan (@DDpan) December 10, 2015
The hood incident isn’t the Citadel’s first race-related controversy. In 1997, “60 Minutes” aired a special on the school’s alleged “ tradition of displaying Nazi and KKK symbols,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
At the time, former cadet Jeanie Mentavlos told the CBS program that her peers refused her food for not knowing facts about the Klan. “There was a certain degree of obsession for the KKK,” the New York Times reported she said.
School officials denied the accusations, which also included an account that a photo of a boy performing the "Heil Hitler" salute had been put up in a Citadel locker room. The New York Daily News cited a statement from the Citadel saying it “does more to promote a healthy racial climate than practically any other college in America.”