Citadel Cadets Disciplined Over KKK Incident

Citadel cadets have been disciplined for dressing up in what has been described as KKK garb. A total of 14 Citadel cadets were expelled, suspended, or subjected to “on-campus punishments” after photos of the young men wearing pillowcases on their heads went viral online.

The Citadel president, retired Lt. General John Rosa, announced that the Ku Klux Klan costumes scandal has resulted in disciplinary action at the South Carolina military college on Monday, ABC News reports. The viral photos showed at least seven freshmen cadets adorned in white shirts, pants, and pillowcases after they were instructed to sing Christmas songs by upperclassmen. The cadets said that the costumes they were wearing in the photos were related to a “Ghosts of Christmas Past” skit.

The Citadel cadets came under investigation in early December after several of their peers reported what they believed was a KKK costume incident to officers at the military college. The potential racism investigation initially involved only eight cadets but was ultimately expanded to include 14 students.

Citadel President Lt. General Rosa said that the cadets did not intentionally set out to engage in an offensive display, adding he was disappointed that those who recognized the incident could possibly be “construed” as racist behavior did not put a stop to the costumed singing.

“At the outset, not all of the freshmen understood that the costumes could be construed by some as offensive,” Rosa added. “It [the skit] did show poor judgment. It demonstrates that we must integrate an even higher level of diversity education into cadets’ daily activities.”

The song sheets the Citadel cadets were holding and singing from did not reportedly contain any type of offensive or racist KKK lyrics, Newser reports. The military college president announced that a task force had been formed to study the state of the campus climate and how it impacts minorities. The task force is reportedly comprised of both community members and school-affiliated individuals. One of the goals of the task force is to enhance diversity among the staff and students at the school. Exactly how that goal will be accomplished remains to be seen and could possibly include recruiting efforts for additional minority students and staff.

Initially, civil rights leaders were urging for the resignation of Lt. General Rosa. Apparently, the groups held the Citadel president personally responsible for the offensive prank by the cadets. After the 14 cadets were disciplined and the task force announced, National Action Network local leader James Johnson said he is “very encouraged” about how the incident was handled. The network is headed by Al Sharpton.

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“We have the opportunity right now to change the race relationship with The Citadel,” Johnson said.

The National Action Network wants the Citadel to give five full-ride scholarships to minority students and to begin engaging in activities with low-income schools. NAACP Charleston Branch President Dot Scott said handing down individualized punishments was the right way to handle the KKK incident involving the Citadel cadets.

Scott added that some of the younger cadets were adhering to what the senior cadets were instructing them to do when they donned the costumes and sang Christmas carols. Although she is happy with the outcome of the Citadel cadets Ku Klux Klan scandal, she maintains that more needs to be done to make the campus more welcoming to minorities. Scott wants the Confederate flag displayed in the chapel at the military college to be removed. Those who are equally adamant about what they feel is a symbol of Southern pride want the flag to stay right where it has always hung.

Two of the Citadel cadets disciplined were upperclassmen who received a semester suspension. One junior cadet has been expelled from the military college. Two of the cadets received a traditional on-campus punishment and were ordered to march back and forth between campus barracks for 50 minutes while shouldering their rifle. Some of the cadets will have to march along the punishment tour for multiple weeks and others throughout the entire semester.

[Photo by John Bazemore/AP]