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“Yes Man” Pulls Classic Prank at Reed Commencement

By Chris Lydgate ’90 on May 19, 2014 04:53 PM

"Yes Man" Igor Vamos ’90 (center) flanked by student divestment advocates Salish Davis ’15 and Austin Weisgrau ’15.

Political prankster Igor Vamos ’90, member of the media-jamming duo the Yes Men, ran true to form Monday at commencement ceremonies at Reed.

Vamos, who plays the character Mike Bonanno in the Yes Men, is known for sophisticated political satire, in which he often impersonates industry or government officials and concocts mock websites.

His latest prank was directed squarely at his own alma mater, however. In the middle of his commencement address, Vamos announced that he had learned over breakfast that the college was about to divest its $500 million endowment from fossil fuels.

Students from the campus divestment group Fossil Free Reed have met with Reed’s board of trustees over the course of the year. The trustees are in the process of reviewing the students’ requests.

Vamos’ announcement was accompanied by a series of collaborating materials, such as two faux press releases that listed false Reed media relations contact information and a faked Reed College Sustainability website. (The genuine Reed site is at www.reed.edu/sustainability.)

During his speech, Vamos implored students not to “do what they love,” as Steve Jobs famously said in his 2005 commencement address at Stanford, but rather to “do what you must,” to ensure that the planet has a sustainable future. Vamos was chosen as Reed’s commencement speaker by the graduating class.

Reed takes seriously the threats presented by climate change. In 2006, the faculty voted to adopt a sustainability mission. Since then, Reed has taken action to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels with a 3-year, $5.4 million investment to cut its CO2 emissions by 2.65 million pounds per year.

“Vamos is a great guerrilla artist and we were proud to have him return to Reed,” said President John Kroger. “We appreciate the robust and far-ranging debate that this prank will continue to spur.”