Intent is a funny thing. So goes the tale of the cadets from the Citadel military college in South Carolina, who ran into some trouble in December when pictures of them with pillow cases on their heads—in an unfortunate, allegedly unintentional homage to the Ku Klux Klan—made their way to the social media sphere.
Today, Citadel President John Rosa ruled the cadets had no "ill intent," following an internal investigation, CNN reported. "However," Rosa told the news network, "I am disappointed some recognized how it could be construed as such but didn't stop it."
The pictures originally came from screenshots of a video the cadets posted online Dec. 9, where they sang Christmas carols while attempting to dress like the "ghosts of Christmas past."
One woman who saw the cadets in costume on Snapchat told NBC South Carolina, "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."
The costumes were apparently a part of a skit. From CNN:
The investigation shows that several freshmen were told to report to an upperclassman's room on numerous occasions after Thanksgiving break, where they were directed to sing Christmas carols in costume, the school said. It was the week before finals.
"The freshmen used what they had close at hand, including pillowcases and other uniform items, in an attempt to dress as 'Ghosts of Christmas Past,' " The Citadel statement said. "At the outset, not all of the freshmen understood that the costumes could be construed by some as offensive in nature. Those who did thought they could easily explain that they were only dressed as ghosts, and said they just needed to complete the skit so they could resume studying."
According to the Citadel, 14 cadets were punished for costimes; consequences ranged from "on-campus punishments" to two-semester dismissals from campus.
"While the skit had no ill intent, it did show poor judgment," Rosa told CNN. "It demonstrates that we must integrate an even higher level of diversity education into cadets' daily activities, and into the already extensive leadership and ethics curriculum. We are working on that now."
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.