Schools & CollegesSchools_%26_Colleges.html
Public PolicyPublic_Policy.html

Government activities are so diverse and so intermingled with our daily life that a useful service can be performed by a research agency concerned primarily with governmental problems. Such an agency has been in existence for many years at the University of Michigan. The need for a center of information on government was recognized by the University as far back as 1913, when the Bureau was established as a division of the Department of Political Science under the name of the Bureau of Reference and Research in Government. Professor Robert T. Crane (Johns Hopkins '02, Ph.D. ibid. '07, LL.B. Maryland '07), of that department, was director of the Bureau of Government from 1913 to 1922. He was succeeded by Professor Thomas H. Reed (Harvard '01, LL.B. ibid. '04), also of that department, who served from 1923 to 1936. In 1918 the title of the Bureau of Reference and Research in Government was changed to Bureau of Government (R.P., 1917-20, p. 327). For about twenty years the small appropriation available to the Bureau was used chiefly in developing the library for the use of students in the municipal administration curriculum.

An expansion in the Bureau activities was made possible in 1934 by a grant of funds for governmental research from the Horace H. Rackham estate, and for the first time it became possible to initiate a broad program of research extending over a period of several years. At that time the Bureau was reorganized into a separate unit of the University under the supervision of Harold Dewey Smith (Kansas '22, A.M. Michigan '25, LL.D. Grinnell '43), who was also director of the Michigan Municipal League. To broaden the scope of its activities, a faculty advisory committee was appointed at that time, consisting of representatives from the Law School, the School of Education, and the departments of Economics, Sociology, and Political Science. Mr. Smith, who later became Budget Director of the United States, was succeeded in 1937 by Assistant Professor Robert S. Ford (Texas Christian University '24, Ph.D. Columbia '33), of the Department of Economics.

A substantial enlargement in research activities was made possible in 1938, when the Charles S. Mott Foundation made a four-year grant to the Bureau for expanding the research program dealing with problems of taxation and public finance in Michigan. Since 1938 the Bureau has been a part of the University Institute of Public and Social Administration in the Graduate School. This Institute consists of four divisions: the curriculum in public administration, the curriculum in social work, the program of research in land utilization, and the Bureau of Government. Under the new arrangement there is a single advisory committee for the Institute, which is composed of the Dean of the Graduate School and representatives of the Law School, the School of Business Administration, the School of Forestry and Conservation, the School of Education, the Division of Hygiene and Public Health, and the departments of Economics, Geography, Political Science, and Sociology.

The function of the Bureau under this arrangement is to aid and conduct research and service in public and social administration. This is the broad program. The immediate objective is to analyze fiscal problems in Michigan, with particular reference to state government, although certain aspects of local government are also studied. In carrying out this program a research staff has been developed for the first time in the history of the organization.

An important feature of the research activities is the prompt publication, in the form of bulletins and pamphlets, of the results of the various studies. A number of such reports have been published by the Bureau of Government, and two series were begun — the Michigan Pamphlets and Michigan Governmental Studies. The Governmental Studies are longer and more technical than are the Pamphlets, which are primarily for those who want a condensed analysis of an important governmental problem.

The nature of the research activities can be indicated by listing some of the subjects included in the published reports. Various aspects of governmental administration and organization in Michigan are covered in reports on administrative organization of state government: State Administrative Board, manual of state government, property tax administration, state tax administration, and units of government. Studies concerning the electoral process have dealt with permanent registration of voters, the initiative and referendum, and voting behavior in Ann Arbor and Detroit. The tax studies deal with such problems as highway finance, taxing intangibles, property-tax delinquency, retail sales and use taxes, tax and salvage sales, and financing national defense. In addition, pamphlets have been issued on local government in Cheboygan and Branch counties, and studies of other Michigan counties will be made in the future.

Naturally, the research and service activities of this type of organization center around its library. The library in 1940 had 25,000 books and documents classified according to the Library of Congress classification and about twice that number of pamphlets, arranged by subject in a vertical file. Approximately 350 periodicals were received currently. The library was under the supervision of Mrs. Ione Dority ('23, A.B.L.S. '27), who had served as librarian since 1931 and who deserves much credit for her work in building up this collection. Although the scope of the collection has been broadened in the last few years, the emphasis continues to be placed on Michigan materials.

The library is primarily for research, but reading reserves are maintained as a supplement to the resources of the General Library for a few classes in public administration. These reserves are used by students in public administration, governmental accounting, personnel administration, state and local government, elections, public finance, taxation, land use, and the administrative process.

In the last few years requests for information about various governmental problems have come to the Bureau in increasing number, and an effort is made to provide this informational service as far as it is possible to do so. The library has been especially helpful in developing the service feature. In addition, the Bureau co-operates with state and local officials in the study of fiscal problems. Special reports were prepared in 1938 and 1939 for the governor's Tax Study Commission, and in 1940 the State Budget Office and the Bureau of Government issued a comprehensive manual on the administrative organization of the state government.

Contemporary government is exceedingly complex and controversial, and adequate analysis of governmental problems requires tedious and prolonged study. In general, problems selected for investigation must be timely. This does not preclude investigations of a more theoretical nature which may not be of immediate interest to the public, but which may have significance in the fields of public finance and public administration. In every study great care is taken to state all of the pertinent facts accurately and impartially. The research program of the Bureau is designed to assist and improve government in Michigan, and to be of service to Michigan citizens by furnishing them with information on leading questions in taxation and government. Careful examination of governmental issues from the financial, administrative, economic, and legal standpoints will provide a basis for the intelligent treatment and understanding of these problems.

Robert S. Ford


President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1920-40.

Proceedings of the Board of Regents…, 1914-40.

The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey

Volume III, page1059

The Bureau of Government