UW-LaCrosse apologizes for hosting porn star

The University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse publicly apologized to staff and students after hosting porn star Nina Hartley.

UW-LaCrosse Chancellor Joe Gow apologized to the school after backlash for hosting a presentation by Hartley as part of the university’s Free Speech Week and agreed to refund the school personally for the $5,000 it expended to host the porn star, according to the LaCrosse Tribune.

“It’s OK to like porn,” Hartley told students and staff during her Nov. 1 speech. “It’s OK to not like porn. And it’s OK to be confused by porn. You are where you are, and you are who you are.”

[RELATED: UW-LaCrosse pays for porn star appearance]

Campus Reform previously reported that the speaking event did not appear on any of the university’s websites or event pages and was not made available to the public through the press. Displays around campus were the only form of advertisement for the event.

There are conflicting accounts regarding from where the speaking fees were derived. The money came out of the university’s auxiliary fund, according to the LaCrosse Tribune. But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel stated that the funds came out of the University of Wisconsin Chancellor’s office fund. 

“I’m writing to let you know how sorry I am for the sensationalistic media attention UW-L has received as a result of a speaker I brought to campus,” Gow said in his email to UW-LaCrosse students and staff, obtained by the La Crosse Tribune. “Regrettably, in many media headlines and accounts, the speaker’s profession completely overwhelmed her message.” 

Gow also claimed that he was "naive" about the potential for that response and has since learned from his actions. 

The chancellor has offered and agreed to personally compensate the university for Hartley’s $5,000 speaking fee. Gow is also inviting a speaker from Fight the New Drug, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching about the “harmful” impact of porn through “science, facts, and personal accounts.”

[RELATED: Sex Week workshop will prep students for one-night stands]

Luke Rickert, a staff member of the Christian student group La Crosse Area Cru, spoke with Campus Reform about the incident. 

Rickert, who is not, himself, a UW-LaCrosse student, stated that even though Gow had good intentions of using Nina’s lecture to celebrate Free Speech Week, it was overshadowed by the lack of publicity. 

“I do believe that talking about sex and sexuality is an important discussion to have,” Rickert told Campus Reform. “Bottom line: I believe that regardless of what background you come from, the message that was sent to university students was that there is a cavalierness regarding human dignity. Human sex trafficking, sex abuse, rape and many other forms of degradation to human dignity is not solved by bringing in someone whose industry fuels these injustices.” 

Rickert claimed that he is personally grateful that the speaking fee funds will be reimbursed and announced that his organization is hoping to partner with the university and with Gow to bring in the speaker from Fight the New Drug not only to “appease the backlash, but to bring counseling and care to those who seek to find help in breaking free of the addictive nature of pornography.”

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