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Three professors placed on leave after insensitive photos emerge

Three University of South Alabama (USA) professors have been placed on leave after photos of them dressed in racially insensitive Halloween costumes reportedly surfaced.

As ABC News reports, photos from a 2014 on-campus Halloween party surfaced last week that showed USA finance professor Bob Wood dressed as a Confederate soldier while fellow professors Alex Sharland and Teresa Weldy were shown posing with whips and nooses.

USA President Tony Waldrop said on Friday that an investigation into the photos will be carried out by attorney Suntrease Williams-Maynard, who is a former trial attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and also served as a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.

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“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,” Waldrop said in a statement.

“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," Waldrop added. "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.”

According to ABC News, USA students have called for the professors to be fired and organized two protests on Friday. A petition calling for the professors' termination has collected more than 2,500 signatures.

Both Wood and Sharland posted apologies on the website Inside Higher Ed, the network noted.

“Seven years ago, I rented and wore a last-minute costume that was ill-conceived to a faculty and student Halloween costume contest, at which I served on a panel of judges to select the winners,” Wood wrote. “I sincerely apologize and am sorry for doing so, and ask for forgiveness for this error in judgment.”

“In retrospect I can see why someone might find the image hurtful, and I regret this attempt at humor that clearly failed. It was not my intent to hurt or be offensive, and if anyone is offended by this picture I apologize," Sharland said.