News 5 Investigates: South Alabama professors on leave over “racially insensitive” photos

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The three University of South Alabama professors seen in “racially insensitive” photos have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation, according to USA president Tony Waldrop.

In a statement, Waldrop says the investigation will be submitted through an independent attorney, Suntrease Williams-Maynard.

The photos, from an October 2014 Halloween on-campus party, 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. 

Waldrop wrote in the statement that the symbols and costume are offensive and do not represent the university’s principles.

Read the full statement from Waldrop below:

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

In the past few days, I have heard from many of you regarding the photographs that were taken at an on-campus costume party held in 2014 at the Mitchell College of Business. These photos depict three members of our faculty wearing and holding symbols that are offensive and are contrary to our core principles of diversity and inclusion.

In my message to you earlier this week, I assured all of you that the University would address this situation in a manner that demonstrates our unwavering commitment to diversity, inclusion, and a safe and welcoming environment for every member of our community.

With that in mind, I am writing to let you know that the University has engaged the services of an independent, highly qualified external attorney to investigate this matter and submit the investigative report to University leadership for further action, pursuant to the University’s policies of non-discrimination and equal opportunity/equal access.

The investigation will be conducted by Suntrease Williams-Maynard, a former trial attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Mobile and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama and the Southern District of Texas. We have pledged our full cooperation to Ms. Williams-Maynard in her investigation. The faculty members involved have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and any related proceedings.

Along with the leadership of the University, I assure you that we are treating this situation with the utmost seriousness and with a commitment to acting upon the results of the investigation. In the meantime, please join me in continuing our ongoing work to make the USA community one that proudly and steadfastly treats every person with respect and dignity.

Tony Waldrop, Ph.D.

President

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