Former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said Thursday that the school’s board of trustees fired him because members were uncomfortable with he and his wife produce and appear in pornographic videos.
The Wisconsin Universities Board of Regents, which oversees UW-Madison, UW-La Crosse and 11 other regional campuses, voted unanimously in a hastily called closed-door meeting Wednesday evening to fire Gow.
After the vote, Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman and Regents Chair Karen Walsh issued statements saying the regents had knowledge of specific conduct by Gow that subjected the university to “a significant damage to its reputation. Rothman called Gow’s actions “abhorrent” and Walsh said she was “disgusted.” But none of them gave details of the allegations.
Gow told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday morning that regents discovered that he and his wife, Carmen Wilson, a former professor at UW-La Crosse, had produced and appeared in pornographic videos.
He argued that he never mentioned UW-La Crosse or his role at the university in any of the videos and that the firing violated his right to free speech.
“My wife and I live in a country where we have a First Amendment,” he said. “We are dealing with consensual adult sexuality. The regents overreact. They certainly don’t adhere to their own commitment to free speech or the First Amendment. »
Gow also complained that the regents never told him what policy he had violated and that he was never given a hearing or any other opportunity to present his case. He said he was considering a lawsuit.
“I received an email last night saying I had been fired,” Gow said. “I would have liked to have had the opportunity to have an audience. When reasonable people understand what my wife and I are creating, it calms them down.
Gow had planned to retire as chancellor at the end of the spring 2024 semester and transition to a role teaching communications courses. But Rothman said Wednesday evening that he plans to file a complaint with UW-L Interim Chancellor Betsy Morgan seeking a review of Gow’s tenure.
Rothman said in an email to the AP Thursday morning that Gow had failed to serve as a role model for students, faculty and the community and wrongly believed the First Amendment amounted to a “free pass to say or do whatever he wanted.
“Good judgment demands that there are and must be limits on what is said or done by those charged with leading our universities,” Rothman wrote.
Rothman added that Gow served at the pleasure of the regents and was not entitled to any specific process.
“That should be abundantly clear to him,” Rothman said.
Gow was heavily criticized in 2018 for inviting porn actress Nina Hartley to speak at UW-La Crosse. He paid her $5,000 in tuition to appear. Ray Cross, then president of the UW System, reprimanded him, and the regents refused to give him a raise that year. Gow then said he was exercising the system’s free speech policies.
Gow and his wife star in a YouTube channel called “Sexy Healthy Cooking” in which the couple cooks meals with pornographic actors. They have also written two e-books, “Monogamy with Benefits: How Porn Enriches Our Relationship” and “Married with Benefits – Our Real-Life Adventures in the Adult Industry” under pseudonyms. Their Amazon bios contain links to their videos on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter and a pornographic website.