Fourteen cadets at The Citadel military college in Charleston, South Carolina, have finally been disciplined after photos of them dressed up like the Ku Klux Klan surfaced on Facebook last month. Citadel president Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa insists, however, that the cadets were not trying to offend anyone with their outfits, pictured above.
“The investigation found that the cadets did not intend to be offensive,” he said in a statement to the Associated Press. “However, I am disappointed some recognized how it could be construed as such but didn’t stop it.”
Rosa maintains that the cadets dressed up in white hoods to perform a harmless “Ghosts of Christmas Past” skit for other cadets. Still, they were punished. Per the AP, one student was dismissed from the college, two were suspended for a semester, and the rest must march “back and forth in the barracks shouldering gun for 50 minutes at a time.”
The Washington Post notes that The Citadel may have felt pressure to discipline the cadets after a “standout basketball recruit” reneged on his decision to attend the school. Mohammed Kabir, a Nigerian high school exchange student in Maryland, asked to be released from his binding letter-of-intent with The Citadel after seeing the photos.
“It was messed up,” he told the Post earlier this month. “I talked to my family and my coach about the situation, and it was not a good move for me because this is not the first time something like this has happened at The Citadel.”
He’s right. In 1986, five white cadets dressed up like the KKK and broke into a black cadet’s room with burning paper crosses. This wasn’t an anomalous event, either—black cadets have reported severe racial harassment at The Citadel as recently as 2013.
Rosa claims, however, that some of the cadets involved in last month’s incident did not understand that their white hoods “could be construed by some as offensive.” In his statement to the AP, he said the incident “demonstrates that we must integrate an even higher level of diversity education into cadets’ daily activities.”