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University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor fired over pornographic content

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor fired over pornographic content Photo: University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor fired due to porn video controversy (GettyImages)

Joe Gow, the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, was unanimously dismissed by the UW System Board of Regents after they discovered videos on porn websites featuring him and his wife, Carmen Wilson, according to USA Today.

Gow, 63, and Wilson, under the pseudonym "Sexy Happy Couple," featured in several adult videos and published two books about their experiences in the industry. Their activities, including a presence on social media and adult websites, led to significant reputational damage to the university, as UW System President Jay Rothman stated.

Despite Gow's assertion that these actions were part of his right to free speech and were conducted on personal time without using university resources, the Board found his actions inconsistent with his role as chancellor.

The revelation came as a shock, contrasting sharply with Gow's earlier announcement of his plans to step down and return to a faculty position and previous positive evaluations of his leadership.

Gow's controversial decision

Gow has a history of controversy. Five years ago, he faced backlash for inviting adult film star Nina Hartley to speak on campus during a "Free Speech Week" event. Hartley's lecture, "Fantasy versus reality: Viewing adult media with a critical eye," had about 75 attendees on campus.

The then-UW System president, Ray Cross, criticized Gow for his "poor judgment" and denied him a pay raise. In response to public outcry, Gow personally reimbursed the $5,000 speaker's fee, which had initially been covered by his office's discretionary fund, supported by interest earnings and vending machine revenue.

Despite the backlash, Gow stood by his decision and even emailed Hartley a week later, praising her presentation as "the most original and thought-provoking" he had seen in his 12 years at the university.

Joe Gow's double life

Joe Gow's background includes a long tenure as chancellor since 2007 when he led a campus of 10,000 students.

His involvement in adult film production and publication under pseudonyms with his wife, Carmen Wilson, who previously held various administrative roles at different UW campuses, was a well-kept secret.

Their participation in the adult film industry, including collaborations with other adult performers and adult content creation, was a hidden aspect of their lives. This private venture, which they undertook to explore their sexuality, was unknown to their public and professional circles, creating a stark contrast between their public roles and private interests.

Gow has emphasized the importance of free speech in universities, and he has been known for his openness to media interviews throughout his UW career, even when it didn't align with UW System officials' messaging efforts.