After being on leave for more than a year, two University of South Alabama professors will return to work after being involved in a controversy revolving around Halloween costumes.
Professor of finance Bob Wood and Alex Sharland, professor of marketing, told investigators that they had different reasons for wearing their costumes that were first seen in a 2014 photo.
Wood was dressed as a Confederate soldier in the picture, while Sharland was dressed as a hanging judge. The photo also included Teresa Weldy, an assistant professor of management, who was holding up a noose.
The photo sparked outrage and protests over the ‘racist symbols’ in spring of last year. Soon after the controversy, the university put all three of them on paid administrative leave and began an investigation by attorney Suntrease Williams-Maynard.
Weldy returned to work in April of this year, according to WALA.
In a statement released by the university, Wood told investigators that he chose the Confederate uniform to wear to the party at the last minute, as there were few others available at the costume shop in time for the event.
Sharland, told investigators that he was portraying British “hanging judge” George Jeffreys, in his costume, which included a Black robe and white barrister’s wig. Sharland also carried a noose and whip along with his costume.
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As part of his return to campus, Wood had to participate in a moderated forum and release a formal statement about his actions, according to WALA. In addition to the forum, which was held on Wednesday, Wood will not be allowed to teach in-person courses for the upcoming school year.
For at least three years, any student that wishes to not take a class taught by Wood can seek out alternative arrangements.
Part of Wood’s statement reads:
“The students, faculty, and staff do not deserve to be painted negatively by my insensitive choice. I want every student to know you should feel welcome at this University and, in particular, the Mitchell College of Business,” Wood said in his statement. “It is a program with strong academic and collegial qualities, and it pains me that any act of mine would dissuade them from joining it.”
His full statement can be read here.
A current student told WALA that the decision made by the school was “bittersweet.”
“I feel like as a leader you owe it to the people to kind of serve as a role model,” Amya Douglas told the outlet. “And this, regardless of how you look at it, it was not a wise decision.”