(NEW YORK)— A tenure review of the former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus— fired last month from his chancellorship and placed on leave for pornographic videos he made with his wife— calls into question the university’s commitment to academic freedom, PEN America said today.

Kristen Shahverdian, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America, said: “Professors are allowed to have private lives – and private speech. While a Board of Regents can make determinations about who serves as chancellor considering potential reputational harm, it would be a radical overreach to apply that same logic to Joe Gow’s status as a professor, revoking his tenure and academic position for what is, ultimately, a protected area of self expression. This tenure review calls into question UW’s commitment to academic freedom for all and it should be halted.”

The university’s Board of Regents unanimously voted to fire Gow following the discovery of the pornographic videos he had made on an anonymous account. The university cited “significant reputational harm” and placed him on administrative leave prior to his return to the faculty. UW President Jay Rothman has since requested a review of Gow’s tenure and has hired a law firm to conduct an investigation.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057