The team

Common Ground is a movement of Oxford students from different backgrounds and different disciplines who have come together to push for change.  Our number grew from 1 to 100 active organisers in a matter of weeks and we are still growing fast.  That’s how we are putting on a second symposium and also releasing a brand-new publication, both coming May 2018.

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COMMON GROUND HQ 

Treasurer and Head of Press

Mia is a second year reading History at Balliol. Arriving at Oxford from a multicultural, urban background, she was shocked at the extent to which issues rooted in class and race went unacknowledged, unchallenged, and were serially misunderstood. She quickly became involved in Access & Outreach work, and her growing knowledge of the barriers facing those within Oxford and without has forced her to confront her university’s complex relationship with its imperialist and classist past. After a revelatory experience teaching in a local underperforming secondary school, she developed a passion for challenging educational inequality, and has attempted to advocate for Oxford to end its complacency on these matters ever since. Mia views Common Ground’s work as a crucial part of changing both Oxford’s culture and its image; she believes this is crucial to achieving a more egalitarian, inclusive, and representative university. With her grounding in Access and journalism, she acts as Common Ground’s Treasurer and Head of Press, and will be co-coordinating the panel entitled ‘How Does Oxford Perpetuate the Class System?’ in our 2018 symposium. Contact Mia at mia.liyanage@balliol.ox.ac.uk

Symposium Co-ordinator

Blue is a second year studying History at St Hilda’s. After traveling to Berlin as a Jewish student, he was struck with the way Germany had come to terms with its own history; he was aware at how safe he felt in what could have easily felt a very unsafe space. On returning to England, Blue became aware of the stark difference in the way that Britain has treated its own history and felt determined to challenge the prevailing British narrative of celebrating empire. Coming to Oxford from a very diverse area and school has led him to see the distinction between British and German reactions to problematic histories even more clearly. The Eurocentric history curriculum, colonial iconography, under-representation of people of colour, and pervading racism at Oxford, made it clear that Oxford was in many ways an unsafe space for many. Blue has been heavily involved in Rhodes Must Fall Oxford, as well as coordinating the final night of the 2018 symposium. Contact Blue at blue.weiss@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk

Zainab is a second-year Physics student. She is an undergraduate at Wadham College, Oxford. She launched a project entitled Empower Her Voice (EHV), which aims to facilitate the empowerment of women worldwide. Zainab has been running events in Oxford and is now developing similar projects in other cities across the U.K., and further afield. EHV collaborated with Common Ground last year to host a series of talks based on the theme ‘Imperial Past, Unequal Present,’ and more broadly, the idea of creating a space for yourself within an institution that may not have been created with you in mind.

 

Event Co-ordinator

Gil is a third year Materials Scientist at St Catz, who had his eyes opened in the first year of his degree by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, and since then has always tried to be involved in decolonisation movements. As a scientist (and as a white person from a privileged background) the primary issue he finds himself up against is always a lack of knowledge, secondary to a lack of nuance. Therefore, putting on discussion based events like ‘Decolonisation 101: Myths and FAQs’ at the start of 2018 proved to be worthwhile, and he is looking to expand this approach soon. —(Gil is helping to co-ordinate events at different colleges with the reps there, so please direct any relevant information requests to him at chambers.gil@gmail.com)-

Many more people are involved in organising events, creating art, and contacting speakers, and running our social media.

Founders

Beth graduated with a History & English BA in 2017. She co-founded Common Ground after she became tired of seeing racist and classist aggressions swept under numerous expensive rugs. Even before she was told ‘this can never go anywhere because I have to marry into the elite’ after a drunken snog in Plush, she knew that Oxford really had a problem. By the second day of freshers’ week she had discovered that having her natural hair out in clubs would result in every other person just-wanting-to-see-what-it-felt-like-because-it’s-so-cool-!-!-!-!. Even still, many of the responses to the Rhodes Must Fall movement shocked her. The question ‘why is racism so easy for people to ignore at Oxford?’ became a pressing one. Beth has found racism and classism at Oxford to be passive-aggressive, arrogant and pseudo-complimentary. They have been a feature of her experience with both students and staff. Beth came up with the idea for Common Ground as a means for collaborative, critical discussion and assembled the team.  She coordinated the core events for the 2017 symposium.

Will is a History and German student interested in challenging the pervasive historical amnesia that exists within the UK, but doesn’t in Germany. He got interested in organising the 2017 symposium after seeing an exhibition in Berlin dealing with Germany’s colonial past – an exhibition that ended with a display of a destroyed statue of a notorious German colonist, torn down by students at Hamburg University in 1961. Will co-directed the symposium and ran the college events in 2017. 

Many others have been a crucial part of our journey so far, and we are indebted to them also.