McGill, News

McGill Grad Students for Palestine call on donors to withhold gifts to university over complicity in Israeli siege on Gaza

On March 13, McGill held its annual McGill24 day, during which McGill students, alumni, and supporters give money to the university. Days prior, on March 9, McGill Grad Students for Palestine created an Instagram post compelling alumni and students not to donate any money to the university while it remains complicit in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians by partnering with Israeli academic institutions and investing in Israeli corporations. The post also urged the McGill community to sign the open letter in which McGill graduate students ask the university to recognize students’ demands to divest from Israeli investments and acknowledge the ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

In a written statement to The Tribune, McGill media relations officer Frédérique Mazerolle stated that McGill24 is primarily a digital campaign, with donations largely stemming from web promotion and outreach via email and social media. At the same time, McGill’s student phone-a-thon team operates five nights a week during the run-up to McGill24. 

“Last year, the University received 7,310 donations totaling $4.4 million during the campaign. This year, $4.9 million was raised through 7,690 donations,” Mazerolle wrote. 

McGill Grad Students for Palestine explained the reasoning behind their campaign against donations to The Tribune, explaining that McGill continues to hold over $20 million in direct and indirect investments in companies complicit in the Israeli regime, while Israeli forces have “systematically destroyed” all universities and healthcare in Gaza. 

“[O]ne thing that other movements have taught us is that [the McGill administration] only truly cares if something becomes disruptive to their bank accounts, their day-to-day operations, or their public reputations,” they wrote. “Since the fall, and in particular after the Bronfman Blockade, many alumni reached out to tell us they had stopped donating to McGill. This letter is an attempt to document the decisions students and alumni were making, to encourage more people to participate, and to show the university that there are consequences for continuing to ignore what the community has so clearly and loudly called for.” 

McGill Grad Students for Palestine asserted that they have yet to see a response from the university over the open letter, but they remain impressed and inspired by the number of students, alumni, and faculty that have signed the letter. As of March 18, over 1200 people have signed on. 

“We know they’ve seen it [….] We would like to see a real response from McGill, but mostly we’re looking forward to hearing from more students and alumni. McGill admin doesn’t speak for the whole McGill community and this letter is a good reminder of that,” they wrote. 

Students for Justice in Palestine McGill wrote in a statement to The Tribune that they fear McGill will not divest, and will instead continue to support entities that work to kill Palestinians. 

“McGill continue to show its cowardice in the face of the challenging of its views. We fear McGill will try to change its views on Palestine at the last possible second after its dollars and stances have killed thousands more lives. The other fear is that our university will indefinitely continue to use our tuition to kill our families and infringe on the academic freedoms of Palestinian students both at McGill and in Palestine,” they wrote.

Mazerolle asserted that McGill’s investments are in line with the United Nations–supported Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), and that 99 per cent of the McGill Invest Pool’s assets are managed by the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles. 

“As for the open letter, it is important to note that McGill does not invest in individual stocks or companies, but rather hires external fund managers to select investments for mandates in segregated accounts and in pooled funds, the composition of which changes continuously,” Mazerolle wrote. 

While McGill24 is over, McGill Grad Students for Palestine hope that people continue to compel the university to divest from an apartheid state, as they did forty years prior. In 1985, McGill was the first Canadian university to decide to divest from all corporations with investments in South Africa. 

“Widespread divestment from apartheid in South Africa played an essential role in the downfall of that regime, and this proactive stance is now a source of pride for many in the McGill community,” they wrote. “This happened because of the hard work of student activists who continue to inspire us. 

McGill administration needs to understand they are currently faced with a very similar choice about whether they once again want to be on the right side of history.” 

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