Watch CBSN Live

Citadel investigates photos of cadets wearing white hoods

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- South Carolina's military college The Citadel announced Thursday it is investigating after photos surfaced on social media of cadets dressed all in white with pillowcases over their heads, images that evoke the Ku Klux Klan.

"A social media posting, which I find offensive and disturbing, was brought to my attention this morning," retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John Rosa, the president of the college, said in a statement.

Statement from The CitadelA social media posting, which I find offensive and disturbing, was brought to my attention...

Posted by The Citadel on Thursday, December 10, 2015

The statement said the school has started proceedings to suspend the eight students involved.

The college said the seven students wearing the pillowcases were "knobs" -- freshmen who get that name from the close-cropped haircuts they receive when they report to school. The eighth student in the photos is an upperclassman.

The photos show the knobs wearing both white T-shirts and white pants with the pillowcases on their heads.

"Preliminary reports are cadets were singing Christmas carols as part of a 'Ghosts of Christmas Past' skit," Rosa's statement said.

The Citadel Minority-Alumni Association released a statement on Facebook condemning the photographs that surfaced. They called the social media posting disgraceful.

"Regardless of the spin that one may try to assign to this type of behavior, the characterization of what took place was 'not a mistake' that can simply be swept under the rug," the statement read in part.

Why would anyone think that this is ok? Will the administration at The Citadel let this go? This picture is a disgrace...

Posted by Citadel Minority-Alumni on Thursday, December 10, 2015

University spokesman Brett Ashworth said the Citadel is looking into both who took the photograph and how it came to be posted on social media sites.

"At this point, there is no evidence that this was hazing," Ashworth said.

A spokesperson for the Citadel told CBS News that the eight students are suspended, and will not be allowed on campus except to take finals.

With winter break beginning next week, the length of the suspension is still to be determined, pending the investigation. It is undecided if they will be back for spring semester.

The college's military Corps of Cadets has 2,300 students.

CBS affiliate WCSC reported that an investigation into the photos was launched after a woman posted the photos to Facebook.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, told WCSC that the photos are screen grabs from videos she saw Wednesday night on the app Snapchat.

She says the videos were posted by a man who saw her on the dating app Tinder and then added her to Snapchat.

"I went to look at my Snapchat stories and he had posted a video of what looked like people dressed up in the white hoods and stuff and I was like, that's really strange," the woman told WCSC.

According to the woman, the man posted more videos.

"Somebody in the video says, 'It's not what it looks like, they're supposed to be ghosts, not white supremacist members.' People are laughing, you know, dancing around and stuff, singing Christmas carols," she described.

"After I posted it, my roommate and some friends, they had talked to me about it," the woman said."And then I kind of realized that it would maybe be turned into a big thing, but honestly at the beginning I didn't."

"Even if it's not offensive to you and you're not actually kind of portraying KKK members, it looks to me obviously like you are," she added to WCSC.

Under the school's system, freshmen receive rigorous military training administered by upper-class cadets.

Hazing has from time to time put the college in the limelight, and novelist Pat Conroy wrote about it in his book, "The Lords of Discipline" -- a fictional account based on his Citadel experiences in the 1960s.

In 1986, five white cadets entered the room of a black cadet dressed in sheets and towels and left a charred paper cross. The black cadet left the college, and later, about 200 people -- many of them black -- marched in protest.

View CBS News In