[image-1]The Citadel has announced the findings of the school’s internal investigation following the release of controversial photos depicting cadets w
earing white pillowcases on their heads in December. The photos drew national attention with many groups saying the students’ attire was inappropriate and resembled costumes worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan. According to a statement released by the school, 14 cadets have received “punishments ranging from on-campus punishments to dismissal,” which requires a student to spend two semesters away from campus.

“The investigation found that the cadets did not intend to be offensive. However, I am disappointed some recognized how it could be construed as such but didn’t stop it,” said Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa in a press release.

According to the school, several students immediately reported seeing the small group of freshmen in costume, and cadet leaders were looking into the matter when the photos of the cadets were released online by an upperclassman who was in the room. Eight cadets were temporarily suspended following the incident, and seven more were added to the investigation as a result of subsequent interviews with witnesses.

The school’s investigation revealed that the freshmen were directed to report to an upperclassman’s room for several nights after Thanksgiving to sing Christmas carols while dressed in costumes. The school says that the students used the items available to them to dress as “Ghosts of Christmas Past,” and not all the freshmen understood that the costumes could be perceived as offensive. Those cadets who understood that the costumes may be offensive “thought they could easily explain that they were only dressed as ghosts and said they just needed to complete the skit so they could resume studying,” according to the school.

The school’s investigation also found that the papers held by students in the photos were lyrics sheets for the Christmas songs “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “Joy to the World.”

“While the skit had no ill intent, it did show poor judgment. It demonstrates that we must integrate an even higher level of diversity education into cadets’ daily activities and into the already extensive leadership and ethics curriculum. We are working on that now,” said Rosa, who as a result of the incident is creating a President’s Task Force on Advancing Diversity and Inclusion, which will be led by the college’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Council.

The Citadel has been the focus of increased scrutiny following the release of a report in December that found a widening gap between the graduation rates of white and minority students, growing almost 9 percentage points between 2003 and 2013. The Washington Post also reported that a Citadel basketball recruit asked to be released from his letter of intent due to the photos.

Rosa added, “The bottom line is that the cadets involved now understand that the costumes could be considered offensive and hurtful to many.”

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