Administrators at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina in Charleston, said Thursday they are suspending the eight cadets who were seen in photos posted to social media showing most of them with white hoods completely covering their heads.
The students could be expelled as a result of the incident and have been removed from campus, Citadel spokesman Brett Ashworth told the Guardian.
According to local station WBTV, the images first surfaced on Snapchat, and were shared more widely on Facebook by a woman who has not yet been identified.
She reportedly wrote on Facebook alongside the photos, "Whether they are supposed to look like ghosts or not, we all know what they look like and they know what they look like and it's just rude."
Citadel President Lt. Gen John Rosa released a statement, saying that he found the images "offensive and disturbing."
Rosa added that early investigations into the incident indicate that the cadets, who are joined by an upper class cadet, were "singing Christmas carols as part of a 'Ghosts of Christmas Past' skit."
Members of the Citadel Minority-Alumni group on Facebook posted a statement in response to the incident.
While the group applauded Rosa for probing the incident, the statement emphasized that "much more needs to be done to address the culture that continues to house recurring prejudices against minority cadets."
The Facebook post suggested the institution of a zero tolerance policy towards discriminatory behavior, and increased funds allocated towards diversity training for Citadel staff.
"It is easy to try to isolate events of this sort to a single item or incident, which would, on its face, be a disservice to minority cadets who have and are currently attending The Citadel. This issue is much bigger. It's a cultural issue and it must be addressed and it must end now," it read.
The investigation remains ongoing. Read the full statement from Rosa below.