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FIRE statement on disciplinary hearings against Joe Gow

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor Joe Gow was fired for producing porn off the clock. Tomorrow, UW will go after his tenured position after donors and politicians threatened to pull their support.

Firing him would crash into the First Amendment. 

Academic freedom generally protects faculty from punishment for what they do or say off the clock. The same law that shields faculty from getting fired or punished for their political opinions or associations also protects their right to create porn. 

Pornography is controversial, but whether speech merits First Amendment protection is a legal, not a moral, determination — and for good reason. Bureaucrats don’t get to decide how we talk about politics, who we choose as friends, and whether or how we worship — because they can’t do it in a principled way. 

Universities bound by the First Amendment must uphold the expressive rights of their faculty, especially when it is difficult or unpopular to do so. UW should show some backbone and uphold core free speech principles, not pander to politicians. 

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