Founded in 1937, CAUBO is a non-profit professional organization representing the chief administrative and financial officers at 99 universities and affiliated colleges in Canada. Business officers have always been, and still are, the core of what is essentially a volunteer-driven organization dealing with an ever-widening array of administrative issues and complexities.
Over the last few years, CAUBO has experienced some difficulties replacing its most active members and replenishing its volunteer base. Furthermore, even our active members have found it to be ever more difficult to devote as much time to their volunteer activities as in the past. You may remember that this is precisely what prompted CAUBO to initiate the workplace issues project.
Many factors may explain this situation. First there were budget cuts which forced institutions into restructuring and reorganization exercises, the result of which generally means additional responsibilities concentrated on fewer people. Additionally, in recent years, we have seen a greater than average number of retirements. Too often people leaving have not been replaced so that universities have had to work not only with fewer people but also with less experienced people. While this was taking place, universities were challenged with having to accommodate an increasing number of students, administer rapidly increasing research subsidies. It is no surprise that our collaborators have been experiencing difficulty in finding enough time for their volunteer activities within CAUBO.
In this context, administrative fences and silos have been coming down and administrators from all sectors of the university have been pressed into a greater degree of collaboration than ever before. One prime example of this development comes from the impact of the CFI grants. Administrators from the finance, procurement, research departments have had to work much more closely than ever before. Failure to do so is even becoming a risk factor with respect to the ability of the institution to compete for the grants and to properly manage and account for the large sums of money coming from different sources.
CAUBO is still the domain of business officers. It is the meaning of the term «business» which is evolving to include all the different administrative facets of university business. As our example shows, collaboration is now essential with more «academic» departments such as the research office.
What is the impact of this evolution within our member institutions on our own structure and traditional modus operandi? Even though CAUBO is strictly a volunteer-driven organization, its history, its successes, its ability to serve the universities in very concrete ways, almost to the level that no other national association can, imposes on us the obligation to make sure that we are adapting to the changing environment. Can we remain essentially a volunteer organization or should we find a better balance between what we require our volunteers to do and what the national office should accomplish?
This is why we need to reflect on where we are going, and especially how we can best continue to serve our members.
- September 2002