This article was published in CAUSE/EFFECT journal, Volume 22 Number 1 1999. The copyright is by EDUCAUSE. See for additional copyright information.

EDUCAUSE from Different Perspectives
by Brian L. Hawkins

I am sure we have all heard the old fable of the six blind men, each of whom described the elephant standing near him. Touching the elephantís trunk results in a quite different view from touching its ear and different still from grasping its leg, and so forth. This classic old fable demonstrates how oneís frame of reference fundamentally defines oneís perception of "reality," since each of us has a unique view of the world around us based upon our background and experiences. It requires effort to understand the viewpoints of others if we are to more fully appreciate the complexity of multiple realities affecting everything about which we communicate.

Upon assuming the presidency of EDUCAUSE, and especially as I worked on a new dues structure, committee assignments, and other organizational tasks, I was immediately struck by the dramatic variance in "views" of the EDUCAUSE organization and recalled the old story about the elephant. I felt that it was very important to share some of the different views I encountered with the membership of EDUCAUSE, examining the demographics of various association activities. There are certainly many other views of this robust organization, but these initial ones seem to be a good starting point.

Institutional members

EDUCAUSE currently claims a membership of nearly 1,800 colleges, universities, state agencies, institutes, corporations, and other organizations. For reasons of simplicity, I have reduced these into five major groupings using the Carnegie Foundation classification system, international institutions, and a "catch-all" grouping for corporations, state agencies, and all other institutions that do not fall neatly into the primary Carnegie classifications. For ease of presentation, I have taken the liberty of combining Research 1 and 2 universities into a single category, Masterís 1 and 2 institutions into a single category, and so forth. Based upon these categories, one can see in Figure 1 that the membership of EDUCAUSE is extremely diverse and reflects a wide range of types of institutions.

Figure 1

In trying to further understand our membership it seemed appropriate to understand the current EDUCAUSE membership mapped to the broader higher education population. Table 1 shows the percentage of all institutions in a given Carnegie category that are currently members of EDUCAUSE. Because there was some significant disparity within the combined categories, a complete listing of major Carnegie classification categories is shown for this analysis. Unfortunately, this approach cannot be applied in a meaningful way to international colleges and universities, or to the "other" category.

Table 1: Percentage of schools by Carnegie classification that are EDUCAUSE members
Research 1 100
Research 2 100
Doctoral 1 90
Doctoral 2 93
Masterís 1 73
Masterís 2 53
Baccalaureate 1 80
Baccalaureate 2 38
Associate of Arts 24

Support and involvement

Support for the organization takes many different shapes: attendance at the annual conference, financial support through dues, service on committees, service on the Board, and so forth. The next set of analyses provides data on these different dimensions.

Educom and CAUSE clearly emanated from quite different histories, and it had been my own perception that not only did the content and focus of these two associations differ, so too did their memberships. At the point of consolidation CAUSE had nearly twice as many members as Educom, and a more diverse representation of institutional types. Despite these differences, there was a remarkable consistency in the pattern of attendees at each of the annual conferences, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Percentage of attendees at the annual conferences by group
Research 36 37 37 34 36
Doctoral 13 12 10 14 12
Masterís 17 17 21 20 19
Baccalaureate 9 9 12 11 10
Associate of Arts 9 7 5 4 7
International 7 9 9 8 8
Other 9 9 6 8 8

The large disparity between attendance at the annual conference and the institutional membership is probably best explained by the size, resource, and complexity differences in institutions. While the research institutions comprise only 9 percent of the institutional members, on average they account for 36 percent of the attendees at the annual conference. At present, these 126 institutions also account for a much larger fraction of the students, faculty, and staff in higher education. This differential is also reflected in the financial support for EDUCAUSE, as shown in Figure 2. The new dues structure ties financial support of the association to complexity and size of institutions, making the dues more equitable, relating the dues to the benefits received and the extent to which campuses can avail themselves of the services and programs offered, while trying to keep the dues affordable.

Figure 2

There are currently over 130 representatives of EDUCAUSE institutions serving on eleven committees of the association. One sees in Figure 3 that there is a reasonably strong similarity between participation patterns on EDUCAUSE committees and the pattern of conference attendees.

Figure 3

Finally, the composition of the Board is examined in a similar fashion. The EDUCAUSE Board of Directors is composed of eight directors elected from the membership, with two elected every year for four-year terms. In addition, four directors-at-large are appointed by the Board to provide additional viewpoints, perspectives, and leadership. These at-large members usually come from outside of the traditional membership. The president of EDUCAUSE serves on the Board in a voting, ex-officio role. Table 3 shows the percentages comprising the EDUCAUSE Board for both the eight elected members and the full thirteen members after last fallís election.

Table 3: Board membership by institutional category
  Full Board Elected Board
Research 38 % 63 %
Doctoral 0 % 0 %
Masterís 0 % 0 %
Baccalaureate 15 % 25 %
Associate of Arts 15 % 13 %
International 0 % 0 %
Other 31 % 0 %

These numbers can be misleading, and potentially do a disservice to the association. Board members should not perform their duties as representatives of a given constituency. Rather, each Board member should always consider the needs of the entire organization, and the needs of all members of EDUCAUSE. The Board members are very diverse in their own backgrounds, with many having worked at two, three, or even four different types of institutions. The Board has also appointed members with backgrounds in state systems, libraries, community colleges, and more. However, as diverse as the Board is, it does not necessarily follow that as a group it should mirror the membership: Board members are elected and selected because of their wisdom, experience, and leadership, and not because they fill a "quota."


These different views of EDUCAUSE indicate levels of participation and leadership that reflect our diverse and comprehensive membership. The various parts of the "elephant" appear quite different from different vantage points, and the whole is a complex entity. The challenge is to meet a variety of member needs in a variety of manners, always keeping clearly in focus the complexity of the entire organization that is EDUCAUSE. the table of contents