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UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow Ousted for Pornography Involvement

Published December 29, 2023
7 months ago

In a unanimous decision by the University of Wisconsin (UW) System Board of Regents, recently surfaced explicit content led to the termination of UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow. The embattled chancellor and his wife, Carmen Wilson, engaged in the adult film industry under pseudonyms and social media aliases, sparking widespread controversy surrounding the intersection of personal liberties and professional responsibilities.

The explicit materials in question include several videos posted on pornographic websites, where the couple operated under the username "Sexy Happy Couple," as well as a pair of books documenting their escapades in this taboo realm. Photos and content from these endeavors, intriguingly, largely omited any direct association with the university or Gow's chancellorship. Despite this, the revelation shattered Gow's standing with the institution.

The backlash commenced when UW System President Jay Rothman voiced the damaging reputational impact of Gow's side venture. Similarly, UW Board of Regents President Karen Walsh rebuked Gow's "reckless disregard" for his leadership role. The content, their statements imply, was discordant with the expectations and image upheld by the university.

Gow, for his part, asserted his First Amendment rights to free speech, claiming the adult content was a private activity that did not utilize university funds or property. His stance suggests a belief in the separation between his personal life and professional duties—a standpoint the UW System officials vehemently contested.

The procedure leading to Gow's termination raised questions of due process, as he claims he was not given a fair opportunity to defend himself before the board's decision. This occurred despite Gow's announced plans to gracefully relinquish his chancellorship in the academic term of 2023-24, to then resume his role as a communications professor.

The contract Gow entered into with the university in 2006 did not bar him explicitly from such controversial activities but did mandate that he refrain from conduct potentially adverse to the university's interests. Rothman's response included placing Gow on paid administrative leave, initiating a review of his tenured faculty status, and commissioning an extensive investigation by an outside law firm.

This incident is not Gow's first encounter with the limelight. His decision to invite adult film star Nina Hartley to speak on campus during "Free Speech week" previously sparked backlash, leading to rebukes and financial repercussions.

The firings' fallout has torn open a dialogue concerning individual rights against the backdrop of high-profile professionals in authoritative roles. In a society that increasingly scrutinizes the private lives of public figures, the termination of Joe Gow from UW-La Crosse becomes a case study in the boundaries of personal freedom and professional ethics.

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