Citadel officials say that a photo posted to Instagram that appears to depict an alleged incident of hazing is just a prank.

The Post and Courier alerted the military college to the photo after receiving an email containing the image. The photo, which is a screen shot of the image posted to Instagram, appears to show seven male cadets wearing Citadel T-shirts standing in a shower in the bathroom of a barracks with an eighth man who appears to be nude sitting on the floor with his wrists bound by duct tape.

A brief investigation by the Office of the Commandant concluded the photo was "staged as part of a prank by a group of freshman friends," said Citadel spokeswoman Kim Keelor-Parker.

The student, who was the target of the so-called prank, in an email to The Post and Courier declined to comment on the details of the photo.

Physical hazing of first-year students, known as knobs for their extremely short haircuts, is an ongoing issue at the Citadel. In the past five years, the military college has investigated several incidents of hazing, including an incident in 2009 when upperclassmen drove an unsharpened pencil into the head of a knob. In another incident in the 2011-2012 school year, a photo surfaced showing a freshman cadet taped to a chair in the shower in the bathroom of his barracks.

The college in its regulations for the Corps of Cadets, known as the Blue Book, lays out the school's definition and penalties for participating in hazing. Keelor-Parker said each student is required to read and sign the book.

The college's definition of hazing includes the wrongful striking of a student by another student or one student threatening another student with violence or bodily harm. It also includes the unauthorized treatment by one student toward another student of a "tyrannical, abusive, shameful, insulting or humiliating nature."

Under Blue Book regulations, participating in hazing or failure to stop hazing where physical injury is likely is punishable by up to expulsion.

Cadets are also required to take classes to support the Citadel's core values of honor, duty and respect which includes a class on hazing prevention.

Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546 or at Twitter.com/PCAmandaKerr.