Laugh-tivists kick up confusion

The+Yes+Men+give+a+presentation+at+the+Iowa+City+Public+Library+on+Wednesday%2C+August+26%2C+2015.+The+Yes+Men+are+activists+who+travel+around+the+country+and+raise+awareness+about+different+social+issues.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2F+Rachael+Westergard%29
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Laugh-tivists kick up confusion

The Yes Men give a presentation at the Iowa City Public Library on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. The Yes Men are activists who travel around the country and raise awareness about different social issues. (The Daily Iowan/ Rachael Westergard)

The Yes Men give a presentation at the Iowa City Public Library on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. The Yes Men are activists who travel around the country and raise awareness about different social issues. (The Daily Iowan/ Rachael Westergard)

The Yes Men give a presentation at the Iowa City Public Library on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. The Yes Men are activists who travel around the country and raise awareness about different social issues. (The Daily Iowan/ Rachael Westergard)

The Yes Men give a presentation at the Iowa City Public Library on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. The Yes Men are activists who travel around the country and raise awareness about different social issues. (The Daily Iowan/ Rachael Westergard)


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By Hatte Kelley
[email protected]

Officials staged a Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review press conference at the Iowa City Public Library on Wednesday afternoon.

The representatives were actually prankster activists, and the entire presentation was a satirical critique of the University of Iowa and the state Board of Regents.

The masterminds behind the fake event were a group called the “Yes Men.” They impersonate “big business” representatives in order to make social commentary and performance art about capitalism and higher education.

The group of prankster activists, or laugh-tivists, as some call them, has two main stars, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum.

“We thought it’d be a great way to comment on not just the local situation but comment more broadly about what’s happening in higher education across the United States,” said Kembrew McLeod, a UI professor on communication studies.

In particular, one of the situations in question is the way in which the regents are handling the hiring of the new UI president. Questions have swirled recently over the quick pace of the process.

The fake press conference didn’t go unnoticed.

“I was taken aside to speak with the university threat-assessor officer,” McLeod said. “I think the presidential office was very confused about there being a TIER efficiency public-review conference that they didn’t know about.”

Regents spokesman Josh Lehman said the regents believe the program is helpful in the process of selecting a new president.

He noted that the search process has been ongoing since February and closely matches that of recent searches at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

UI spokeswomen Jeneane Beck believed it was inappropriate to “get into tit-for-tat” with critiques of a performance-art piece in regards to the different issues presented, and she noted that the search process itself is that of the regents.

Both the regents’ and the President’s Offices said they respect the right to freedom of speech and expression on campus.

Residents and faculty will be able to speak with the four finalists at public forums over the next two weeks. The regents will select a new president Sept. 3.

The Yes Men in their satire said, “We need to create the governance system that gives students, staff, and faculty more control … they should be able to vote on all major hirings.”

The Yes Men don’t do it all on their own accord.

The Yes Men have an online site on which users can post about issues important to them, Bonanno said.

“Anyone can post an idea, and it is to help people to develop actions to draw attention to issues people care about,” he said.

The duo are both professors themselves.

“We also have this online training, with 50 students and an eight-week course to develop actions around issues they care about,” Bichlbaum said.

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