UA Progressing in Compliance Operations Support

Sept. 2, 2022

Over the past eight years the university system has made incredible strides in addressing compliance, training and outreach related to Title IX and equity. To help manage that effort, and lead the response to a Voluntary Resolution Agreement (VRA) with the Office for Civil Rights, Mary Gower was appointed Chief Title IX Officer. She worked with the equity and compliance offices at each university to modernize reporting and tracking systems, coordinate training and outreach, update policies and regulations, and provide accountability for Title IX compliance to the Board of Regents. At the successful closure of the VRA Gower’s position changed to Chief Equity and Compliance Officer to address the broader scope of civil rights issues institutions encounter in higher education.

The Title IX and equity landscape at the university has improved significantly over the years, and the need for a system level office position dedicated solely to this issue has significantly decreased. The responsibility and authority for Title IX and equity is with the Chancellors and Directors of Equity and Compliance at each university with support from the system. This change presents an opportunity to maintain the Board’s desired oversight of Title IX issues through the chancellors and developing Title IX equity programs at each university consistent with policy and regulation, in a way that meets the needs and mission of each university.

Now, Gower’s extensive experience will be leveraged to address the larger spectrum of compliance areas. She will support compliance within the university’s operations in an increasingly complex higher education regulation environment. Chief Audit Executive Nikki Pittman created a new Senior Institutional Compliance Liaison position within Audit and Consulting Services, which Mary Gower has accepted. This role is consistent with many other higher education internal audit departments and will focus on institutional compliance and optimizing the elements of a compliance framework. The scope of Gower’s work will include support for Title IX as well as the expansive other compliance obligations across the system and the universities.

The role will be a resource and provide support to the university’s compliance operations and responsibilities while helping to foster a culture of compliance. In turn, this can further the university’s improvements regarding culture, minimize risk, minimize exposure to fines or penalties resulting from non-compliant actions, and minimize the need to repay federal funds.

The role will fill gaps that have existed or which have been handled in an ad-hoc manner, including:

  • Standardizing compliance efforts.
  • Coordination of compliance responses.
  • Serve as a connection point for outside parties, including governmental regulators, on institutional compliance issues.

Gower, in conjunction with the university equity and compliance offices, has done exceptional work to expand a culture of safety and respect, and now will be extending that commitment to additional areas of university culture and compliance.