Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

UW La Crosse chancellor’s OnlyFans: Wrongful termination or justified?

Michael Buckner / Advance-Titan

On Dec. 27 of last year, UW-LaCrosse Chancellor Joe Gow was fired for his participation in the subscription-based porn site OnlyFans. Ever since the news broke, debates have sparked about the morality of sex workers in the education system as well as the treatment of sex-workers in both public and professional contexts. As students also a part of the University of Wisconsin System, it’s safe to say we at the Advance-Titan have a lot of opinions and mixed feelings on the subject, specifically whether or not he was wrongfully terminated.

Many members of staff believe that Gow’s termination was unfair for many reasons.

One major consensus is that he has the right to do whatever he wants in his free time, with one staff member saying “Gow’s termination is a violation to his right to privacy,” and what he does when he leaves work is his business. 

Most members also believe that his involvement in the porn industry has nothing to do with his job performance, especially considering UW-LaCrosse is doing a lot better than we are in the debt department. “Given that the chancellor is adequately leading the university, there is nothing wrong with them engaging in this behavior in a way that is separate from the university, one staff member said “However, I would question the priorities and time management if the chancellor was letting the university plummet while they spend a lot of time on their OnlyFans account.” This was not the case for Gow, yet he was still terminated. 

Along with making sure his sex work doesn’t affect his job performance, Gow made a point to keep these two “personas” separate. For one, his content is uploaded to a subscription-based platform, meaning it cannot be accessed by accident — or at all — unless it’s paid for first. As one A-T staff member said: “If you don’t want to see his sex work, don’t look at it and especially don’t pay for it. He has the right to do what he wants with his body and really, it shouldn’t be up to the board of regents to decide if it’s okay for him to make money with it.” 

The same member went on to explain how it would obviously be a much different situation “if he had been recording the porn on campus or asking students to participate in the videos — that would be a different situation.” It seems as though Gow has no problem with keeping the two separate, so why can’t the Board of Regents do the same?

Beyond wrongful termination, one member also believes that this is a symptom of a much bigger problem, and that this is proof that sex workers still aren’t respected by society. They go on to reframe the problem as a sex-negative Board of Regents rather than an “impertinent” chancellor, describing a similar situation in which his hard work was overshadowed by their anti-sex thinking. “He was the longest serving chancellor in the system, yet he was denied a performance pay raise in 2018 after inviting a sex worker to speak on campus,” they said this was more of a demonstration on expanding the university’s free speech policies rather than a porn star meet-and-greet.

However, even members of staff who claim this to be wrongful termination feel as though Gow should’ve been prepared for the consequences since sex work is still a taboo in today’s culture, especially in a professional and educational context. One member of staff said,  “In a university setting, professionals should be able to do sex work on the side if they want, but they should be mindful of how that reflects on them and their institution.” Another went more in depth, saying “The Chancellor of a university is supposed to be a figurehead for the school. So, when they do something disgraceful, their role as leader of the university needs to be questioned.”

Most everyone can agree that this type of behavior wouldn’t be okay if he were working with minors, but this situation is interesting because, although he works in education, he works with all adults. Is Gow’s termination a result of his public position, or is any worker at risk of being terminated for doing sex work on the side? Does this have more to do with the sex-negative attitudes of the board of regents itself, or is this about saving the universities’ reputation?

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