Administration Says “No” to Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum
Andy Bichlbaum, one half of the controversial activist duo the Yes Men, has become one of many part-time professors at The New School to not have his contract renewed for next year. Bichlbaum has taught communication, design and technology at Parsons for five years, but is better known for his unique "Yes Labs," which are intensive workshops where he introduces students to social activism.
A number of his students were outraged at the decision to not renew his contract.
"Not enabling Andy to continue inspiring young people and giving them the tools and support to take action on issues of social importance is a huge mistake," wrote Jessica Assaf, a New York University student who has been auditing Bichlbaum's class, in an email to the *Free Press*.
Bichlbaum said he was unsure why his contract wasn't renewed. Bichlbaum was planning the April 2 and 3 Yes Lab, the activist stunts he runs at the university, when he found out his contract wouldn't be renewed.
He speculated that the "Yes Labs" don't fit the school's curriculum.
As of press time, the Free Press couldn't reach Sven Travis, dean of art, media and technology, despite several attempts.
"His class keeps the school at the forefront of social change and nuanced thought," wrote Michael Pineschi, a New School student, in email to the Free Press.
Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, a fellow activist, formed the Yes Men in 1999. Their activism varies from creating fake websites and press releases to posing as corporate representatives, which they call "identity corrections" instead of "pranks."
With his Yes Labs, Bichlbaum wanted to bring this work to The New School, known for its history of defiant independence. For one of the past New School "Yes Labs", hundreds of students used their bodies to spell out "DOW," and held placards reading "CLEAN UP BHOPAL!", in Union Square on the 25th anniversary of the industrial disaster that occurred in India in 1984.
Bichlbaum came to The New School after living in Paris, where he wrote and filmed the documentary "The Yes Men Fix The World." Born Jacques Servin, he goes by the pseudonym Andy Bichlbaum, which he adopted while pretending to be a World Trade Organization representative in 2000 for one of his activist stints.
Bichlbaum met Bonanno (real name Igor Vamos) after hearing about Bonanno's Barbie Liberation Organization, in which Vamos's activist group switched the voice boxes of hundreds of Barbies and G.I. Joes' to combat gender stereotypes.
In 2004, the duo targeted the Dow Chemical Company in one of their most well-known "corrections." Bichlbaum went on BBC World News posing as a Dow representative to discuss the catastrophic 1984 chemical catastrophe in Bhopal, India. Bichlbaum falsely claimed that Dow created a $12 billion compensation fund for victims. Dow's shares plummeted $2 billion due to divestment.
Bonanno was distressed by the news of his colleague. "Now we won't have an office in N.Y. and we need to raise money to cover Andy's living expenses," he wrote in an email to the Free Press. "The time that goes into that is time away from doing things that matter in the world!"