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Local Leaders Okay With Cadets Punishment Over KKK Incident
1/27/2016 4:44:35 PM

Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa (left) addresses media at press conference January 25. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

A month ago the discovery of clandestine activities among cadets at The Citadel which included students dressing in costumes resembling those of the Klu Klux Klan resulted in responses of outrage from many in the community. The Citadel’s administration Monday quelled some of that outrage when it announced 14 cadets involved would be disciplined ranging from dismissal to on-campus punishments.

In the wake of the costume party cadets insisted was a spoof about Christmas ghosts, the local chapter of the National Action Network called for the cadets’ expulsion and the resignation of Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa. Chapter President and NAN S.C. State Coordinator James Johnson said at the institution where leaders in business and the military are trained, the tradition of racism only will end when the corps of cadets and staff at The Citadel reflect true diversity.

As the community wrestled with the calamity that came only six months after the June 17 massacre of nine Black worshipers by a white supremacist gunman at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, local civil rights officials met with the school’s administrators who promised an investigation conducted after the midyear break would determine any disciplinary actions that might follow.

The administration announced Monday their investigation revealed the cadets conducted activities over several nights during which freshmen cadets performed different skits dressed in various costumes while singing Christmas carols. December 9 they dressed as ghosts wearing white T-shirts and pants and wore pillow cases over their heads in an attempt to portray “Ghosts of Christmas Past”.

In a statement released Monday Rosa said, “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. While the skit had no ill intent, it did show poor judgement. It demonstrates that we integrate an even higher level of diversity education into cadets’ daily activities and into the already extensive leadership and ethics curriculum.”

The administration meted out punishment that included dismissal for two semesters to one cadet, suspension for one semester to two cadets and on-campus punishment for 11 cadets.

Johnson said NAN officials feel the administration’s decisions are appropriate. “We’re not about destroying people’s lives so we’re okay with what they’ve decided. The biggest thing is we’re in the door and we’ll be meeting with the administration with respect to their diversity.”

NAN has asked the administration to make several concessions that include creating five full scholarships to be awarded to Black students from the Charleston area annually, conducting an annual program to honor Dr. Martin L. King Jr., developing partnerships with local Title 1 schools and teaching the school’s history including its origin to all cadets.

Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said the local branch also agrees the discipline meted out to the cadets is appropriate. “It’s a signal they are trying to fix things, although that bell can’t unrung. Some might say the punishment should have been more severe and I can’t argue with that. But the fact is the incident happened and the administration responded immediately.”

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