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My recent reprimand of UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow is not about freedom of expression or the First Amendment.

It is about the professional judgment expected of a university leader regarding planning and paying for campus events.

Ray Cross


The University of Wisconsin System’s thoughtful and robust Commitment to Academic Freedom and Free Expression policy protects a wide range of speech – from the kind of research our faculty conduct to the opinions expressed at a campus forum.

My reprimand of Chancellor Gow after he personally invited a porn star to lecture on campus is being mischaracterized as unfaithful to our policy.

Would I have invited Nina Hartley to lecture on human sexuality and the pornography industry? No, but I don’t dispute her right to speak. Rather, I reprimanded Chancellor Gow for exercising poor judgment in deciding, on his own, to hire Hartley.

Chancellor Gow chose the topic, the speaker, and the campus venue without engaging in a substantive collaborative process involving students, faculty or staff.

Chancellor Gow says his personal invitation to Hartley was an attempt “to promote awareness of the University of Wisconsin System’s Commitment to Academic Freedom and Free Expression,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. If that is indeed the case, why did Chancellor Gow deliberately block widespread advance publicity of the event?

According to the La Crosse Tribune, the lecture did not appear on the university’s online events calendar nor was the media notified. Instead, the university promoted the event only through digital signs on campus. The Tribune quoted Gow saying, “There was concern, because it’s a controversial topic, that people would send this far and wide, and we’d get people who aren’t going to come, and they sensationalize it.”

The overall lack of judgment and awareness of his role is why Joe Gow deserved a reprimand.

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Ray Cross is president of the University of Wisconsin System.


(24) comments


Joe Gow had some ulterior motive in bringing this woman to campus. I suspect that somehow he and his wife knew her and did her a favor by inviting her to UWL and paying her a $5000 speaker fee. Apparently, she was not even very informative nor interesting. He was being sneaky for some reason--would love to find out why.


ThinkClearly - And I bet you are Buggs Raplin.


Think Clearly: it's much simpler than that. They. Wanted. To. Meet. a. P orn. Star.


That is SO persuasive, local. Stay there in your narrow mind, or you might learn something.


You're right, homey, there are lots of other explanations. Like, maybe Ms. Hartley called and wanted a private guitar concert. Yeah, that's what probably happened!


More persuasion and deep thinking from the local observer who knows what he sees when he sees it. Just ask him.


Simple application of Occam's razor here seems appropriate: when there are multiple possible explanations for an event, the simplest one is usually correct.

People... Joe Gow wanted to meet Nina Hartley. He used university money to make that happen. Did he break the law in doing so? Obviously, no. Does Hartley, or any other adult film star, or pretty much any member of society have the right to speak on campus, and is the University within its rights in sponsoring such an event? Yes and yes.

The Gow fans here and elsewhere, and Gow himself, want to make this a question about free speech, which it isn't. Rather, this is a case of spectacularly poor judgement by a Chancellor with (read between the lines of the letter) a history of questionable judgement and borderline behavior for an administrator.


Where is the liberal American Association of University Women in all of this? Have they issued a statement yet condemning Gow's lack of judgement?


Redwall, not EVERY issue is liberal vs. conservative. If you assumed Gow is a flaming liberal, you'd be wrong. He just sticks his finger in the air to see which way the wind's blowing and goes with whatever he thinks will make him the most popular. For example, when Scott Walker was first elected Gow was an open supporter of the new Governor- especially when Walker was on one of his many visits to UW-L. On the other hand, when he's around people with left or left-leaning political orientations, he swings that way. Joe Gow pretty much does what he thinks will make the people around him like him. In this instance, it was almost certainly a simple case of an aging dude who wanted to meet Nina Hartley.


If this was "a simple case" of an aging dude who wanted to meet Nina Hartley he could have just asked Don Trump to introduce them.


Local sounds like he's not in the real world. What a silly comment.


Hmm. Good point Red. Do you think their lack of comment is indicative of them thinking this is an irrelevant argument not worth commenting on, nor their business to comment on it? D'ya think you could think about it in those terms, Red?


more mud slinging from localobserver. You are just making up stories and rumors now about Gow and the po-rn star. That is about as low as it gets. If you have proof of what you say then show it, otherwise don't make up stories about anyone. Have a little sense decency about you.


Cross, I disagree with you wholeheartedly. It seems you have an ax to grind against Gow - why? I cannot imagine why you have made this another negative - perhaps you have a problem.


Donors are angry their money is spent so frivolously. Including this (former) donor.


Right. I can just bet the alumni office is wringing its hands this week, sweating, weeping and worrying at the loss of money stream they used to call "Redwall". What was it you gave that one time? Was it ten bucks, or am I being too extravagant?


Well Mr Cross, did Gow HAVE to do the things you claim he didn't do? If not, I'm not sure why you even bothered to write your letter. It seems to me he made a decision which apparently you and some others didn't like but it hardly seems like it warranted a reprimand considering he was well within the grounds of his job description and possibly his contract. Managers make decisions all the time without consulting their higher ups. That's part of being a manager (and that's what Gow really is) and what can determine how good you are. Sometimes you make mistakes but a good manager not only takes corrective action (which he did) but moves on and learns from them. I believe you were more concerned with your image (and the schools) and the fact he didn't lay all his cards out for you than you were about the topic at hand. There was precedent for what he based his decision making process on and then afterward took action based on the outcome. He did exactly what a good manager does. And that should have been the end of it.


The reprimand letter references this incident as an "additional" mis-step by the chancellor in handling public relations. What you and Tribune are missing is that there was a history of issues of which this was the most recent.


well ok redwall, you seem to be an expert on this atrocious and horrendous event, and how the University administration acts. Inform us of the history of issues of which there are many it seems at the University, and pray tell us how Gow is such a rotten egg that his name and reputation needs to be dragged through the mud for weeks, as we put all other important and crucial issues aside to dwell on this tragic event.


Sorry, you have the same information I have, you just choose to not read it.


no I can't seem to find that information Redwall, so be so kind as to reveal what addition "mis-steps" Mr Gow has done over the years. You are the one who brought it up, I am just asking for clarification and some proof. Or am I going to get the same old silent crickets I usually get.


Yep, crickets...


Redwall, the Man For No Seasoning. Ain't salty, peppery or nothin' but just blandly empty and tasteless.


Really, more talk of a Gow and an ex p@rn star. I think all this kicking around of this dead issue has given the ex p*rn star more publicity than she ever imagined. She is sure to cash in on her newly found fame. Meanwhile Gow 's reputation is being dragged through the mud forever. With all the issues facing our society, and our community why are we fixated on this. Enough already, move on, and deal with the major issues of the day.

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