Fourteen cadets have been dismissed, suspended, or are serving on-campus punishments at The Citadel after several of them appeared in photos with pillowcases on their heads similar to Ku Klux Klan garb, the military college's president announced Monday. The photos of seven freshmen cadets dressed in white pants and shirts with the pillowcases surfaced on social media last month. An investigation found they were ordered by upperclassmen to sing Christmas carols while they were dressed in costumes as part of a "Ghosts of Christmas Past" skit, the AP reports. "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," college President retired Lt. Gen John Rosa says in a statement.
The song sheets contained only the words to carols and nothing offensive and "at the outset, not all of the freshmen understood that the costumes could be construed by some as offensive," he says. Rosa says 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." He announced formation of a task force comprised of representatives from the school and the community to study and make recommendations on the campus climate for minorities, enhancing the curriculum to promote greater understanding of ethnic backgrounds, and increasing diversity among students and staff. School officials said one junior has been dismissed from the college. Two upperclassmen were suspended and must leave for a semester. The other cadets are being punished by marching back and forth in the barracks shouldering guns for 50 minutes at a time. Some will have to march tours for three weeks, others until the end of the semester. (Read more Citadel stories.)