Three professors at the University of South Alabama have been placed on leave after racially insensitive Halloween photos surfaced of them, the university said. USA President Tony Waldrop made the announcement Friday. An independent investigation into the incident will be conducted by attorney Suntrease Williams-Maynard, a former trial attorney for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Mobile and a former assistant US attorney for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama and the Southern District of Texas, he said. The pictures were taken at an on-campus Halloween party in 2014, according to a petition created by USA students, multiple news agencies reported. Then-Dean of the Mitchell College of Business and current finance professor Bob Wood was dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform, per the AP.
Professors Alex Sharland and Teresa Weldy posed with a whip and noose. Waldrop wrote in a statement that the symbols and costume are offensive and do not represent the university’s principles. Students meanwhile are still calling for the professors' termination. They organized two protests near the campus' Bell Tower on Friday. At the noon protest, nearly 100 individuals attended. As of Friday, a petition calling for the firing of the professors had over 2,500 signatures. Waldrop asked the students to help the administration provide ideas so the university can move forward. In a post on Inside Higher Ed, both Wood and Sharland apologized for their actions. (Read more Halloween costume stories.)