Newcastle student embroiled in social media race row

In light of the death of George Floyd, Alex Gervas reports on recent allegations of racism in the UK

Alex Gervas
6th June 2020
Image: Fibonacci Blue on Flickr
A viral thread exposing racist behaviour from several students includes one who now studies at Newcastle University, an investigation by the Courier has revealed.

The thread included an image posted by Harry Wells, a current Newcastle University student. The Twitter thread - published on 30 May - featured a screen capture of Wells’s Instagram from 2016, where he had posted an image of a black girl. The caption under the picture reads: “swear harambe died",  accompanied by an angel emoji. When approached by the Courier, Wells declined to comment.

The Newcastle student called a black girl "Harambe"

After receiving numerous threats, the girl targeted by Wells asked to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Beatty. Beatty said that she had no relationship with Wells before the post and that the attack was unprovoked. “Harry was doing group-rates with his friends and decided to give me one that I didn’t ask for, rating my black features 0. After repeatedly asking him to take it down, he ignored and deleted my comment.”

According to Beatty, she finally had a conversation with Wells in which he apologised. He privately messaged the creator of the thread (who asked to remain anonymous) saying: “I want to apologise and say that this was a horrible thing I did and do regret it.

“I have apologised to the girl, and we have spoken. I am wrong, and I wish I could take it back. I have grown and realised that just because words are not harmful to me, it doesn’t mean they aren’t harmful to others.”

A Newcastle University spokesperson said: "This incident pre-dates the individual's arrival at Newcastle University by several years and was dealt with at the time by their school. We do not condone this tweet in any way and have taken the appropriate investigative action. The tweet and the account has since been deleted."

Newcastle University insists it has methods in place to deal with racism

On 4 June, the University sent an email addressing George Floyd’s death and insisted it had methods in place to address racial inequality. These include being a member of Race Equality Charter (REC) since last year, and "recently" forming a REC Self-Assessment Team (SAT), chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julie Sanders.

The thread also included a photo taken by Adam Wilkinson that showed two other boys, identified as Jack McGill and John Smith, mimicking George Floyd’s murder. The post has since been deleted, and the username is now private. 

Before being erased, people came forward with information about Wilkinson, McGill and Smith. It was revealed that Wilkinson studies at Bradford University, and that McGill and Smith are doing an engineering apprenticeship at an unknown firm. After reaching out to Bradford University, we have not received confirmation of this information. 

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  1. Can confirm, University of Bradford is investigating Wilkinson, everyone received an email a few days ago saying the matter is being looked into.

    Someone called Adam Wilkinson also has a University of Bradford email address.

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