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UW-L chancellor responds to letter of reprimand from UW System president over Hartley speech

Drew Kelly

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A speech by an ex-porn star at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse a month ago is still in the news.

News came out Wednesday that UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow was reprimanded in an email earlier this month by UW System President Ray Cross for his handling of the speech given by Nina Hartley.

The consequences could include Gow having his raise withheld, as well as an audit of the chancellor’s discretionary fund going back to 2016, which Gow welcomes.

Gow makes $212,388.96 with $23,898.00 in allowances, according to the Wisconsin State Journal database.

The appearance by the 59-year-old sex educator, author and porn star was held during free speech week Nov. 1.

Gow insists it was a good event and doesn’t quite get all the controversy since.

“You know she’s spoken in the past on campuses, including Berkley, Dartmouth, Ohio State,” Gow told WIZM. “And there didn’t seem to be this level of interest in it, so it is a little surprising.”

“It seem like this is somebody we would not hear from every day. I thought it was a very successful event and then we moved into this phase of great controversy.”

Gow added they would like to have a follow-up event, so people can express what they got out of the speech. It’s something the school often does with speakers and other guests on campus, Gow said.

Here is Cross’ letter to Gow:

Letter of Reprimand

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
to lecture students about sex and the adult entertainment industry. 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.

Furthermore, I found out about this controversial event, as did several members of the Board,
through the media after the event – neither you nor your staff briefed us prior to it becoming
public. Even you recognized this would be a “controversial issue” but you did not brief my
office prior to your interview with the media or prior to it being released by the media. In light
of my prior cautions about your interactions with the media and your need for a public
information officer, this should not have happened.

This incident has prompted many to question the sources and uses of the Chancellor’s
Discretionary Fund. As we continue to struggle for greater financial independence and public
trust, your decision to spend money from this fund on a one-sided lecture by an “… [adult
entertainment] performer, educator, and …. activist” unfortunately, puts all of our funding at
risk. I fear your actions also detract from our budget request and our capital plan, which should
be one of your highest priorities.

Therefore, you are being reprimanded for exercising poor judgment and for a lack of
responsible oversight with respect to the use of state funds. This will impact your salary
adjustment which, along with all the other chancellors, will be before the Board in December.
Additionally, I will be calling for an audit of the sources and uses of the Chancellor’s
Discretionary Fund for fiscal years 16, 17, 18 and 19 to date.

This Letter of Reprimand will be added to your file and become part of future evaluations.

Born in Decorah Iowa. I've been a news reporter for the last 10 years, starting right out of college in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Other professional opportunities led me to Marshalltown, Iowa and Antigo Wisconsin, before I finally was afforded the opportunity here in La Crosse. I've been here since 2016. I also act as the voice of local sports, doing play by play of high school and college football and basketball. When not working I enjoy golfing.

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    Dave Konkol

    November 30, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Dear Drew,

    I am a free speech advocate. And I am not opposed to hearing views that are contrary to mine. Even views I find extremely harmful and hateful.

    But I was very disappointed to learn that Chancellor Gow had invited a former porn star to speak on sexual issues on campus.

    I lead a ministry for men and women whose lives and families have been terribly harmed by regular viewing of pornography. Many young men, and a growing number of young women, are becoming addicted to pornography which encourages the objectifying of men and women and leads to a number of not so healthy outcomes (sexual disfunction, lack of bonding in relationships, broken marriages, etc.) Even the epidemic of ED can be linked to the widespread and regular viewing of porn by men.

    I was even more alarmed to read that Chancellor Gow was quoted as saying, “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,” he added. “That’s what she’s doing.”

    I also find his apology to be suspect. He knew that bringing this speaker to campus would be controversial yet he seems to be apologizing only for the fact that it caused a controversy. I wish he’d be more honest about what he thinks. Not about free speech but about pornography.

    You also seem to hold the opinion that viewing porn is no big deal. So I recommend you view this TED talk (13 mins) to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem. I apologize for the language and images.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YpHNImNsx8

    Respectfully,

    Dave Konkol

    Pastor of Adult Ministries and Outreach

    First Free Church, Onalaska

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