Skip to content

Letter to Dr. Lesley Cormack

Published:  at 11:43 PM
Dr. Lesley Cormack
ADM102A-1138 Alumni Ave
Unceded Syilx Territory
Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7
Thursday, February 15, 2024

Dear Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Cormack,

We the students, staff, and faculty of UBC are extremely disappointed in your overwhelming silence and continual inaction regarding Israel’s ongoing occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of Palestine and Palestinian people. This occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide began over 75 years ago. Since October 7th 2023 in particular, Israel has engaged in consistent and horrific indiscriminate bombing and killing of Palestinian civilians, ruled by the International Court of Justice on January 26 as genocidal actions. UBC has been called on for years to condemn the violent apartheid conditions Palestinians are forced to live in, including by both UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan’s student unions and hundreds of staff and faculty members. Since October 7, the efforts and communications of students to support Palestine and end the genocide have been consistently ignored by UBC decision-makers, including yourself.

Today, we stand united in a cross-campus day of action to call on UBC to divest from all companies complicit in Israeli apartheid, occupation, and ethnic cleansing of Palestine and Palestinian people including but not limited to the list below. This list was created through cross-referencing (1) companies identified in a 2023 report from the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner as complicit in Israel’s numerous violations of Palestinian human rights; (2) companies listed in motions passed by UBC Vancouver’s Alma Mater Society (AMS), and UBC Okanagan’s Student Union Okanagan (SUO), on March 23 2022, and November 24 2023, respectively; and (3) the UBC Investment Management (UBCIM) 2022 Holdings Disclosure Endowment Report. We would like to note that UBCIM has yet to release a report of their 2023 holdings, which may alter the contents of this list.

In violation of the United Principles for Responsible Investment which UBCIM is self-purportedly accountable to, and against the will of majority of students, staff, and faculty across UBC (to whom the UBC Board of Governors holds fiduciary duty), the UBC Endowment remains invested in these complicit companies:

  1. Lockheed Martin - 0.043% / $1.2 million of the UBC endowment
    World’s largest military company and weapons manufacturer; provides fighter jets to the State of Israel which are used to hurt, displace, and destroy Palestinian people and land.

  2. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co - 0.028% / $784 000 of the UBC endowment
    Tech company that has enabled Israel to control the rights and mobility of Palestinian people; also used in Israeli prisons (Israel is currently imprisoning 7200+ Palestinian people, including 250+ children).

  3. General Mills Inc - Pillsbury - 0.013% / $364 000
    Pillsbury, owned by General Mills, previously ran a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement. General Mills was formerly described by the UN as a company that exploits land and resources in violation of international law. Though General Mills recently sold its stake from the aforementioned factory, it continues to benefit from the profits it accumulated over its time of ownership.

  4. Caterpillar Inc - 0.010% / $280 000
    Makes bulldozers which are used by the State of Israel to demolish homes and construct illegal settlements in Palestine. There is ample and recent evidence of the Israeli soldiers using bulldozers to crush and bury Palestinian civilians alive (including pregnant women in labour, carrying white flags).

  5. First International Bank of Israel LTD - 0.003% / $84 000
    One of Israel’s largest banks; finances construction projects in illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

  6. Bezeq the Israeli Telecommunication Corp LTD - 0.002% / $56 000
    Provides telecommunication services to illegal Israeli settlements, military bases, and checkpoints.

  7. Motorola Solutions Inc. - 0.001% / $28 000
    Sells surveillance equipment to Israel; holds contracts with IDF, the Israeli Prison Service, and Population and Immigration Authority.

  8. Bank Hapoalim BM - 0.001% / $28 000
    Large bank in Israel; finances construction projects and homes built as part of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

Investing millions in Israeli occupation is not a neutral stance. Staying silent on Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinian people is not a neutral stance, either (we’re looking directly at you, here). As UBC Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is your job to ensure that the UBC Okanagan campus is run in ways that are aligned with the UBC strategic plan. Maintaining silence on Israel’s genocide of Palestinians and failing to use your position and fiscal responsibilities to encourage the BOG to divest from companies complicit in this genocide is misaligned with the strategic plan in countless ways. It is also your job to be an informed, attentive, and influential member of the UBC executive leadership team, a position through which you have the power to influence the agendas and decision-making of President Bacon and the BOG. Finally, it is your job to foster relationships within and between the campus, the community, and the world. It seems to us that you are not fostering campus, community, and global relationships from behind your closed office door, but rather ignoring them.

Pretending not to see the injustices of the world, ignoring emails and letters from staff, students, and faculty, keeping your office door closed, and staying silent on UBC media channels reflect a lack of accountability to the roles and responsibilities of your job as well as to the UBC community. Changing one’s words and actions in response to shifting perspectives and information is foundational to academia. With this action and call for divestment, we are also calling on you to do your job, break your silence, and take necessary action yourself.

Our demands for you are as follows:

  1. Release a public statement to the UBC Okanagan campus (1) acknowledging Israel’s ongoing occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide of Palestine and Palestinians; (2) acknowledging and apologizing for your former silence and inaction on the matter and the many Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students you have harmed as a result; (3) acknowledging the complicity of UBC in Israel’s war crimes as illustrated by the aforementioned corporations in which the UBC endowment holds shares; and (4) detailing a list of steps you will take to pressure the UBC BOG to divest from corporations complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Email the Interim Chair of the BOG Bill Sundhu (cc’ing and requesting that this issue of divestment be added to the Agenda of the next Board Meeting; and

  2. Respond to all communications from members of the UBC community regarding Israel’s ongoing genocide in Palestine in a timely manner (3-5 business days), from this time forward.

As the solidarity between our campuses grows, it is wise to expect unrelenting pressure from the UBC community for you to take responsibility for your power and influence as a prominent UBC figure and decision-maker.


Students, staff, and faculty of UBC Okanagan.