Chemistry professor under fire after accusations of cultural appropriation 

Holly O’Neil is under investigation for allegations of cultural appropriation. O’Neil dressed as Michael Jackson at a recent Halloween Party hosted by the English Department. (photo by Washburn University)

Holly O’Neil, associate professor of chemistry and interim assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is under fire after being accused of practicing cultural appropriation Thursday, Oct. 27. 

Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary.

During the English Department’s fourth annual Halloween party, O’Neil went dressed as pop star Michael Jackson. She performed a dance to Michael Jackson’s song, “Thriller.” A video of the performance was posted onto Facebook, then quickly deleted. 

There has been much confusion on the true context of the incident, but Washburn University is currently investigating the situation. 

The Review has contacted several sources connected to the matter and has not received any extra details. 

Lori Hutchinson, interim director of public relations, did reach out through an email. Here is what she had to say: 

“Washburn University is reviewing concerns raised about a costume worn by an employee to an on-campus Halloween party Thursday, Oct. 27. We are gathering information and hearing perspectives from the students, faculty and staff who were involved and have been affected before developing a response to the situation. Washburn’s commitment to an inclusive campus community will be an important part of this review process.

Individuals who have information, questions or concerns may contact Dr. Teresa Clounch, Associate Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at [email protected].”

The Review will continue to report on this incident as more information is released. Check for additional updates.

Edited by Justin Shepard