Watch CBSN Live

Citadel punishes cadets wearing white hoods in photos

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Seven cadets at The Citadel who appeared in photos with pillowcases over their heads similar to Ku Klux Klan robes have been suspended, officials at the state military college confirmed Friday. Meanwhile, local activists called for the resignation of the college's president.

An upperclassman who was photographed but not dressed up was also suspended.

A spokesperson for the Citadel told CBS News that the eight students will not be allowed on campus except to take finals. College spokeswoman Kim Keelo said there's been no decision whether they might be allowed to return.

Photos appeared on social media this week showing seven freshmen cadets, called knobs because of their short haircuts, wearing white T-shirts and white pants with the pillowcases on their heads.

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

John Rosa, president of the military college in a statement called the images "offensive and disturbing." He said initial reports indicated the cadets were singing carols as part of a "Ghosts of Christmas Past skit."

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

Meanwhile, civil rights activists called for Rosa to step down.

"We believe that accountability starts at the top," said James Johnson of the National Action Network during a news conference across the street from the gates of the military college. "What those students and the leadership have done is open up a wound that is hard to close."

"Enough is enough," he said, saying the group wants Rosa to step down and the state to stop funding the military college. As he spoke, cadets in uniform walked through the gates across the street.

Two South Carolina lawmakers have called for the expulsion of the cadets who were suspended.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard said in a written statement that such an act, just across town from the Emanuel AME church where nine people were shot and killed last summer, adds "insult to injury." Dylann Roof, a white man who posed with a Confederate flag for online photos has been charged with killing the nine black parishoners.

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson is also calling for the expulsion of the cadets.

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.