The Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) is expanding as it announces the selection of a new director, additional positions and a reorganization of some duties.
Among other things, OEO is tasked with ensuring that the University of New Mexico is in compliance with frequently updated federal laws designed to protect students and ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Francie Cordova has been named director of OEO. Robert Burford, long-time student conduct officer, will move from the dean of students office to OEO to become the university’s first full time Clery Act Compliance Officer, while Heather Cowan is advancing from her current job as compliance manager to be the Title IX coordinator, a position she had been serving in on an interim basis. The office is also hiring a compliance assistant.
“The OEO and its staff are critical in UNM’s efforts to respond fairly and properly to the tough issues that contemporary college campuses may face, such as gender discrimination, sexual misconduct or sexual violence,” President Robert G. Frank said. “We believe we’ve selected just the right people with valuable experience and expertise for these key positions.”
Cordova is currently the assistant chief counsel for the California Department of State Hospitals. In this capacity, she has dealt with a myriad of issue including OEO, recruitment and retention, personnel, patient and civil rights and she has dealt with a myriad of issues including OEO, recruitment and retention, personnel, patient and civil rights, and privacy issues.
Cordova was previously director of the New Mexico Human Rights Division, which investigates and issues determinations on every claim of discrimination filed in NM, in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation. She is an attorney licensed to practice in New Mexico and California and has worked as an assistant attorney general and a deputy public defender.
“I've been a lifelong civil rights activist who strives to increase access to education, wages, employment, and housing for all communities,” Cordova said. “I look forward to working at the UNM, where I plan to collaborate with campus and community partners to help promote equal access and treatment for students and faculty, and promote an environment that is free of discrimination."
Burford, who has worked at UNM for more than 20 years will take over his new role as Clery Act compliance officer on Aug. 17. He will work to ensure institutional compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Police and Campus Crime Statistics Act. He will coordinate campus-wide efforts on reporting crime data and other compliance requirements such training and education programs, and will work closely with the Title IX team at OEO.
“I am excited to be a part of the new team working in the Office of Equal Opportunity,” Burford said. “I believe the experiences that the three of us bring to OEO will be an asset to continuing the progress UNM has made in making our university a model for both Clery and Title IX Compliance."
Cowan returned to UNM’s OEO in 2013 after working at the University of Michigan as a Title IX investigator. As the new Title IX coordinator, she will be responsible for strengthening a culture that supports a safe and respectful campus by ensuring the UNM meets all obligations under the federal Title IX law.
Her work includes providing educational programs regarding discrimination and sexual harassment, as well as overseeing and coordinating investigations and resolutions to allegations of violations.
"I am passionate about Title IX and have been excited about the direction the Department of Education has taken the law,” Cowan said. “UNM's efforts toward Title IX compliance have grown tremendously with LoboRESPECT and I'm honored to take on this role for the university."