News 5 Investigates: Protest planned after racially insensitive photos of USA professors resurface

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A protest is planned following a News 5 investigation into resurfaced 2014 photos of professors dressed in costumes many consider racially insensitive.

The pictures show then-Mitchell College of Business dean Bob Wood dressed as a Confederate general and professors Alex Sharland and Teresa Weldy posing with a whip and a noose.  

The university, Wood and Sharland have issued statements apologizing, but Weldy has not issued a statement. 

Those statements can be read here.

In addition to the planned protest, students have started an online petition, which has garnered more than 2,300 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

“It’s 2021, there’s no need for racism to still exist,” said student Jaylin Bass, “This is just ridiculous. And on top of that, we need faculty and staff to see that we want to be treated and respected as equal. It’s almost like a slap in the face to the minority students on campus. It’s like we’re just going to demote him just because he did that, so don’t worry guys. Demoting him does nothing. At the end of the day he’s still racist and he still has job on this campus that he does not deserve.”

Wood has since been demoted to professor, the university not confirming why, citing personnel reasons.  

Separately, in a letter to president Tony Waldrop, Black student organizations are calling on the professors’ termination, including the USA’s NAACP chapter, the Black Student Union and others.  

The letter says in part:

Per the University of South Alabama Faculty Handbook, section 3.16.4: “Tenured and non-tenured faculty members may be terminated ‘for cause.’ ‘For cause’ includes but is not limited to, moral turpitude, conviction for a felony, substantial failure to perform assigned professional duties, incompetence or unethical behavior including violations of academic or research integrity.” In this situation, violations of both unethical behavior and moral turpitude were exhibited. The actions of Bob Wood, Alex Sharland and Teresa Weldy clearly violated the accepted standard of the campus community. As a result of their actions and in accordance with the Termination/Dismissal policy, we want the process for considering the “Termination for Cause”(Faculty Handbook, page 109) to begin immediately.

Presidents of the USA NAACP Chapter, the Black Student Union, the National Pan Hellenic Council, Collegiate 100 and Women of Excellence.

The protest is planned for Friday at noon at USA’s Bell Tower, by a separate group of students, unaffiliated with the groups who sent a letter to the president.

Both Wood and Sharland are tenured, but Weldy is not.

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