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"Yes Man" Pulls Spoof on Reed College at Commencement Address


UPDATED (4:04 pm on May 19)--A second fake press release went out by Vamos under the header "Deplorable Prank Announcement Untrue." The release had fake quotes by Reed College President John R. Kroger and incorrectly listed Mandy Heaton as contact. The college had no advance knowledge of either prank release.

Portland Ore—(May 19, 2014)—Political prankster Igor Vamos ’90, member of the media-jamming duo the Yes Men, ran true to form Monday at commencement ceremonies at Reed College.

Vamos was chosen as Reed College’s commencement speaker by the graduating class of 2014.

Vamos is known for his character Mike Bonanno in the Yes Men, a performance group which stages sophisticated political satire, often impersonating industry or government officials and posting mock websites.

Vamos’s latest prank was directed at his own alma mater. During its annual commencement address, which was held on the college’s Great Lawn, Vamos announced that he had learned over breakfast that the college was about to divest its $500 million endowment from fossil fuels.

A student group, Fossil Free Reed, has been working on a campaign to get Reed to divest from fossil fuels. Student campaigners 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’s announcement was accompanied by a series of collaborating materials, such as a faux press release 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 Reed dropout 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.

Reed College takes seriously the threats presented by climate change. In 2006, the faculty voted to adopt a sustainability mission. Since that time, Reed has taken action to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels with a 3-year, $5.4 million investment to reduce 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.”