UW-La Crosse Chancellor Dr. Joe Gow was fired after adult videos of him and his wife were discovered.
The decision from the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents was unanimous. UW System President Jay Rothman said Gow’s actions were “abhorrent” and subjected UW-La Crosse to “significant reputational harm.”
Gow and his wife Carmen Wilson, appear on several pornography and social media websites under the name, “Sexy Happy Couple." Under pseudonyms Geri and Jay Hart, the two have also published two books about their experiences in the adult film industry, though pictures clearly indicate their identities.
Gow has argued that the creation of the books and videos falls under free speech and did not use any university property, funds, or time. He also argued that he was not given a chance to make his case.
"There's nothing said about the University of Wisconsin; there's nothing said about the chancellor (on the videos)," Gow said after the firing. "So someone else would have to make those associations. And then someone would have to say those are problematic."
The books don't mention La Crosse, Wisconsin, or university work, but do refer to Gow and Wilson as “executives at two of the better-known organizations” who “couldn’t be more entrenched in the local establishment.” They described having to hide their activities despite wanting to be more honest about their sexuality.
Gow has served as UW-La Crosse chancellor since 2007. He previously announced that he would step down at the end of the current 2023-2024 school year and return as a communications professor. Wilson, formerly a leader of UW-Rock County, is currently "associate to the chancellor” under Gow’s contract.
According to Gow’s 2006 contract: "The Chancellor is encouraged to engage in outside activities that contribute to the Chancellor's professional advancement or benefit the University. The Chancellor may not engage in any activity that may be adverse to, or competitive or inconsistent with the interests of the University of Wisconsin System."
Rothman said he has placed Gow on paid administrative leave as he transitions into his faculty role, filed a complaint to review Gow's tenure status, and has contacted an outside law firm to investigate.
Five years ago, Gow similarly received criticism for inviting adult film star Nina Hartley as a campus guest speaker during a "Free Speech week" event.