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University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow has apologized to students and staff for the controversy ignited by a porn star’s recent visit, saying he did not anticipate so much vitriol, so many provocative headlines.

Joe Gow

Gow

Nina Hartley

Hartley

“I’m writing to let you know how sorry I am for the sensationalistic media attention UW-L has received as a result of a speaker I brought to campus to help us celebrate Free Speech Week,” Gow said in a statement, obtained by the Tribune on Monday.

“Regrettably, in many media headlines and accounts, the speaker’s profession completely overwhelmed her message,” he continued. “I admit that in inviting her to present at our university I was naive about this possibility, and I have learned much from it.”

Gow, who has defended the decision to book Nina Hartley, a longtime adult film actress and sex educator, announced that he is making two concessions to those who have decried her visit.

He agreed to personally compensate the university for Hartley’s $5,000 appearance fee, which was initially covered by student fees and interest.

He is also booking a speaker from Fight the New Drug, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit dedicated to “raising awareness (of porn’s) harmful effects using only science, facts and personal accounts.”

The event is planned for later this month, though details have not been finalized.

“This will be another way to promote free expression on our campus, and I look forward to attending,” said Gow, who was not available for further comment.

“In order to avoid any further controversy in the media, I will not be making any more public statements about this matter,” he said.

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On Nov. 1, Hartley spoke to about 70 students and staff at Centennial Hall, touching on everything from female empowerment and the necessity of consent, to the importance of distinguishing porn from reality.

She said she views porn as safe, consensual fantasy — fantasy that will intrigue some and offend others.

“The word ‘pornography’ has such a pejorative connotation — it’s been caught up in a lot of emotionally charged conversations,” Hartley said. “It’s OK to like porn. It’s OK to not like porn. And it’s OK to be confused by porn. You are where you are, and you are who you are.”

Hartley, 59, is a widely respected voice on sex, relationships and pornography.

She is a board member for the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit advocating for sexual freedom as a human right, and has lectured at Harvard, Dartmouth and the University of California.

Joe Gow: Why Nina Hartley spoke at UW-La Crosse

“There’s no one like her in terms of her background as a performer and educator, and her role as an activist,” Gow said. “I think the world would be a better place if we were more open about human sexuality … and how it plays a healthy role in people’s lives.”

Gow has also fended off questions about why the university was tight-lipped about Hartley’s appearance, especially since it was tied to National Freedom of Speech Week.

The event did not appear on the university’s online events calendar and, unlike many events, was not made known to the press.

Though he said he was naive about the possibility of misleading, sensational news stories, Gow previously said he limited promotion of the event because he feared that very thing.

“There was concern, because it’s a controversial topic, that people would send this far and wide … and sensationalize it,” he said Nov. 1, the day Hartley came to campus. “People should come with an open mind, engage in critical thinking and then make up their mind about what a speaker has to say.”

Kyle Farris can be reached at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_A_Farris.

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(22) comments

Call Lax out on its BullSpit

And I dont say white dudes in a racist way at all cause I have white friends but call a spade a spade dont call it a black heart...

Call Lax out on its BullSpit

No way possible he didnt know what he was doing. Dude like 50 and thats to old to act like you dont understand what youve done its sad that these our the type of minds that are trusted to educate at the top of the margins like we go to school to learn how not to be exactly what these people are now teaching to be make 0 sense. And this has nothing to do with TRUMP or politics these people were here before TRUMP and will be here after him. We just have to do what we have to do filter them out and hold then responsible for the misleading and false educating they continue to do. We use to be a nation of bravery, integrity and morals now these white dudes is so powerless and scared straight that there willing to sacrifice their daughters and wives also women power period to feel comfortable with themselves..

RNeibuhr

Kyle Faris, this is click-bait journalism. Hartley has spoke and several other colleges to little fanfare. No tax dollars were spent and nothing inappropriate occurred. I’m sure the Tribune is happy to gin up the angry mob and watch the advertising dollars come rolling in.

informed and educated

This is what media is. It’s not click bait but the media is not reporting the entire storey. There is more to this than the public knows. The speaker’s topic was not inappropriate but Gow’s deceit is.

mamasboy

Gow is a horses A$$!

random annoying bozo

excellent spin by gow...he must think people are really stupid, and he is really smart, for giving such hogwash as an excuse.

who knows, maybe uwl will be offering a degree in 'sex for money' someday? that might help solve the student debt problem, at least people would have a career that pays money with that degree.

Randy69

I, for one, would think that the speaker in question would be an excellent choice for college kids to hear. OK, she's a hooker but who better to teach than an expert in the field? Life extends to many areas and with all the publicity concerning trafficking, I agree with Joe on his choice. She would be my choice as well.

Mac

I agree. It sounded like a good program for the students.

informed and educated

Lacked depth and substance.

Frangel45

Wow, what a tirade going on today. There was nothing wrong with this event. Keeping young adults in the dark about what truly goes on in the world accomplishing nothing. This was an excellent opportunity for teaching some CRITICAL THINKING. We all have to make choices in our lives - but without the true facts as to reality - we miss out on important information. You people sound like a bunch of radical evangelicals or victorian prudes. Or grabbing an opportunity to denigrate Mr. Gow - again? Mr. Gow, sorry you felt you had to apologize about this - you made a choice that was helpful to young adults.

martian2

It does sound like Gow didn't give a sincere apology the paper with his words as reported in the Tribune. But actions are often louder than words, so as he is reaching into his own pocket to reimburse the University it is safe to say he is admitting to a mistake. I think that is mighty big of him and I would just leave it at that.

Slider

Joe really had to rush and get a speaker on the detrimental effects of P&rn. Naive doesn't begin to describe Joe Gow.

TJforJesus

He says he sorry for the "sensational media attention". How about apologizing to all of the women who have been sexually abused during the production of pornography and sorry for perpetuating an industry that victimizes women of all ages, including children. And sorry for promoting such an evil scourge. That's what he needs to be sorry for. He still doesn't get it. What a total waste of taxpayers money supporting his salary. He needs to go.

Fuemanchoo

So....Joe Gow brought on a pornstar to address sexuality and consent. It unfolded to be a horrible decision. So now, all of a sudden he believe the best solution is to book a nonprofit organization that seems to stand on the opposite side of the first booking???

Redwall

It wasnt much of an apology; it was a "I'm sorry I got caught" kind of an apology.

martian2

I would say reimbursing five thousand dollars out of his own pocket is a very good apology. Instead of being stubborn and standing his ground no matter what, Gow found a way to bring all sides together. Some people will never be satisfied.

johnnybragatti

As a UW- Madison Alum, this would be a non-issue ,however Joe seems a little old to be naive, especially at UW-L, which is supposed to be mini : UW-Madison...Or ,at least it used to be.

canman

Gow wasn’t naive about this, his own words were that “he limited promotion of the event because he feared that very thing”. Gow is just playing the victim. Better keep looking at jobs Joe.

Prairie

Its not hard to see that instead of finding speakers of interest to his students Gow instead chose to bring controversy once again and get his name in the paper. Seems being known is his real agenda. Only 70 students attended so really Joe how in touch with your students and THEIR interests are you? Maybe p@rn is your thing and that's fine but don't try to pretend that its an issue for your students. ASK them what kind of speakers they are interested in seeing before you book one next time. And try to get along without press for a few months and see how it goes. You are not gaining any respect or support pulling stunts anymore.

Monteee

Joe Gow, don't be such a coward. You stood by your decision to have Hartley come to UW-L, so you should stand by your decision NOW.

Instead, you let a bunch of ignorant, thin-skinned crybabies bully you. Shame on YOU.

Chipper

Agreed.

Rick Czeczok

To late because you opened up a can of worms. Now you have to live with it. Good luck as you caused a lot of future work for yourself and lost a lot of respect. Foolish move Mr. Gow.

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