Professor accused of cultural appropriation releases statement

Holly O’Neil releases a statement apologizing for dressing like Michael Jackson and painting her face to look like a zombie. O’Neil sent this statement to the Washburn Review today and the incident is still under investigation. (photo by Washburn University)

Holly O’Neil, associate professor of chemistry and interim assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Washburn University, released a statement to the Washburn Review apologizing for the incident that occurred Oct. 27. 

O’Neil attended a Halloween party hosted by the English department. During the event, she performed the dance to pop star Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” song. O’Neil also dressed as Michael Jackson and wore makeup to appear as a zombie. 

Since then, the event has been under investigation with O’Neil being accused of cultural appropriation. The incident has also brought up accusations of blackface, as O’Neil used darker makeup to create her zombie look. 

A video of her performance was posted onto Facebook, then quickly deleted. The Review has since received and published a video sent in by a Washburn employee, as well as an anonymously submitted photo of O’Neil during the event, both of which can be found here

Faculty have not yet released any information on the current status of the investigation.

Today, O’Neil provided the Washburn Review with her statement through an email. 

“I sincerely apologize for the unfortunate incident that occurred on October 27th and I am cooperating fully with Washburn’s review of the event. I appreciate the University looking into the incident and I support their efforts. My costume and makeup was a poor effort to look like a zombie from the “Thriller” video, and I meant no disrespect.”

The Washburn Review will continue reporting on any new information released. Check for updates. 


Edited by Glorianna Noland, Christina Noland and Justin Shepard