LA CROSSE, Wis.—Remember this one?: A woman (who happens to be a trained nurse, sex educator … and porn star) gets invited to a college campus in Wisconsin to talk sense about sex and porn to members of the student body, all of whom voluntarily attend (and who in fact had to seek her out since the event wasn’t widely publicized). One problem: The university had a “Free Speech Week” in late October, but thanks to a prior commitment, Hartley couldn’t make it then, so university Chancellor Joe Gow paid for her visit out of his office’s discretionary funds, and Hartley spoke on the topic of “Fantasy vs. Reality: Viewing Adult Media With a Critical Eye”—but later, after the shit hit the fan with the university president, Gow wound up reimbursing his office the $5,000 the Hartley visit had cost out of his own pocket.
And so things stood in mid-November—but that was far from the end of the “controversy,” and the final shoe dropped in early December after the university’s Board of Regents denied Gow his $25,600 performance raise—a raise that was awarded to 10 other chancellors—all because, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, of Gow’s “reprimand for inviting a porn star to speak to students during free speech week.”
“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,” wrote university system President Ray Cross in his letter of reprimand to Gow.
Gow responded in a La Crosse Tribune column, in which he stated that, “When I invited Ms. Hartley to speak at UW-La Crosse I was attempting to promote awareness of the University of Wisconsin System’s Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression [which had been passed by the Board of Regents in the Fall of 2017]. I thought the policy would protect, and even encourage, her speech … To other universities interested in promoting free speech and advancing knowledge about essential social issues, I would recommend Hartley without hesitation.”