Students and staff at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse have been given more power in booking guest lecturers after the chancellor invited a porn star to speak on campus last November.

Joe Gow


On Monday, Chancellor Joe Gow announced the formation of a Joint Committee on Free Speech Promotion, a group of students and staff members that will organize events during National Free Speech Week and issue “recommendations regarding matters of importance to our campus community,” a release said.

Nina Hartley


Gow said he approached faculty leaders because of the backlash he received after booking Nina Hartley, a porn star and sex educator, for what proved to be an incendiary lecture on sexuality and adult entertainment.

“After the events of last fall, when there was a controversy about the choice of speaker, people said this would be best done by a more inclusive group and not just you,” Gow said, referring to himself. “I did what I thought was right last time, and from that I learned that we should move in a direction that’s more (inclusive) of our students and staff.”

Gow said the joint committee structure has been an effective one for UW-L, which has similar groups overseeing sustainability, budgeting and multicultural affairs.

In the coming weeks, Gow will work with campus governance groups to appoint members to the new committee, he said.

Ray Cross mug


Under UW System policy, chancellors are responsible for overseeing and implementing free speech protections on their respective campuses. That did not stop system President Ray Cross from scolding Gow for his decision to book Hartley.

“Apart from my personal underlying moral concerns, I am deeply disappointed by your decision to actively recruit, advocate for, and pay for a porn star to come to the UW-La Crosse campus,” Cross wrote in a Nov. 6 letter that landed in Gow’s personnel file. “While I understand and appreciate your commitment to freedom of expression and public discourse, as chancellor, you need to exercise better judgment when dealing with matters such as these.”

Gow, while lamenting the news stories and negative attention the booking brought on, has maintained that Hartley’s lecture was both appropriate and insightful.

“I think we see things differently,” Gow said of the president’s letter. “I think the free speech policy is very clear that each chancellor is responsible for implementing that policy, and I took that seriously and did my best effort on this. I was approaching things from a very pure, free speech perspective.”

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


Kyle Farris covers education for the La Crosse Tribune. Reach him at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com.

(19) comments


I think Joe Gow will go down in history as one of the most effective, visionary leader of the La Crosse campus in its history, perhaps the best one ever. The school is in the top rank of all state schools in Wisconsin, perhaps coming in second after Madison. It consistently is named one of the best values in education nationally. A lot of that has to do with Gow's leadership.

I think Mr. Cross will be a gray little face whose name and memory will recede in history very quickly, a small, narrow-minded hick who was misplaced in his position in the university system.

I think all of the people on here carping and sneering about Gow are in fact the people who make up the core of Ms. Hartley's clientele, unable to move past their adolescent sexual fantasies.


Right, because UWL was absolutely floundering before your hero Joe arrived to save that sinking ship.

Fanboys are hilarious. He wanted to meet a pron star. Occam's Razor.


His fellow chancellors disagree


Finally someone who has some intelligence. As I've written before, Mr. Cross needs to step down from his ivory tower. He's totally out of touch.


Regardless of the issue at hand, you can count on Joe Gow to do one or both of two things: form another committee and/or hire another vice chancellor or assistant vice chancellor or associate assistant to the dean. You get the idea. I'll be looking for the tribune article announcing the hiring of the new Assistant Vice Chancellor for Free Speech. This person is SURE to be either a family member or close personal friend of somebody already in UWL administration of course.

Rick Czeczok

Let it go Joe, let it go.


Hey mamasboy. I bet that President Trump would of enjoyed this speaker considering his past.


Takka, Trump might very well have ( not OF) enjoyed this speaker, but he's smart enough not to invite her to the white house.


Joe went a few months without having his name in the paper after he was denied a raise. Now he has to drag out an old controversy and see if he can get some attention. Maybe for your next career you can be a dairy farmer cuz nobody milks a story like you do. Seriously Joe, when did this become a priority for the students? Something tells me it didn't even make the long list. Please set your personal interests aside and attend to the needs of the students paying to attend the UW and learn to serve them. OR for gods sake move on and let the UW system find a new chancellor.


His day in the sun has come and gone and he knows it.


Well said


It might be interesting to find out how Gow came to know of Ms. Hartley. Is he a big fan? Maybe he's seen dozens of her movies..... I mean flicks. As far as his promotion of free speech goes, I'll bet anyone walking through campus wearing a MAGA hat or tee shirt would endure plenty of abuse from the the free thinking students at UWL.


They sure would. Hypocrisy and liberalism go hand-in-hand.


Oh boo hoo.


Speaking of hypocrisy, D, why are you posting on here? You agreed to a bet in which you would back up assertions you made last week on another topic. You did not back them up, and you had agreed that if you could not, you would stop posting on these boards for a week. Why haven't lived up to the agreement?


Well, at least he thinks Trump is a bit of a moron...


Hypocrisy knows no political orientation I'm afraid. For every lefty hypocrite, there's a righty hypocrite. And both sides think the other's got all the hypocrites.


You are wrong.. the left has more..3 to 1. Ivr Been counting


You're funny Lutefisk. You've counted and there are 3x as many liberal hypocrites as conservative ones. Turn of Fox News for a while... and whatever you do don't switch to MSNBC, you'd only be switching from conservative groupthink to liberal groupthink.

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