Industrial Relations Section.

Industrial Relations Section. At Princeton industrial relations connotes a broad range of interests and activities. Within its traditional orbit are the areas of personnel administration, unionism, collective bargaining, the economics of the labor market, and management organization and development, as well as company benefit plans and government social security programs. More recently, the Industrial Relations Section has broadened its scope to include analysis of manpower and educational systems in developing countries, the financing of education in the United States, race relations and discrimination in employment, and the new and expanding area of economics known as ``investment-in-man'' or human capital.

The Industrial Relations Section itself was inaugurated in 1922, at the suggestion of Clarence J. Hicks of the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey). Hicks, a pioneer in the progressive movement of personnel administration in large-scale industry, was instrumental in securing funds from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to establish the section on a trial basis. Later Rockefeller provided a permanent endowment, and his son, John D. Rockefeller III, provided additional funds, which were subsequently augmented by contributions from over sixty companies and six national unions. By 1975, the section's annual income from endowment was well over $150,000, and additional funds were being provided by foundation and government grants for specific projects.

The section has had five directors. Robert F. Foerster was called from Harvard to start the enterprise. He was succeeded in 1926 by J. Douglas Brown, who, in a very real sense, was the section's philosopher, prime mover, and builder. He developed its program, inspired its researchers, raised money for its endowment, and was its guiding spirit for nearly thirty years. He was succeeded by Frederick H. (Fizz) Harbison, who served as director from 1955 to 1968; since then Albert Rees and Orley Ashenfelter have alternately served as director.

Throughout its history, the section has functioned as a clearinghouse of information for students, business executives, union leaders, and government officials. It has the oldest and one of the best industrial relations library services in the country, provides financial support for the research of graduate students and faculty members, and is the workshop for hundreds of undergraduates writing course papers and senior theses. It has always been housed in the university library, since 1948 in space provided by a gift from the Class of 1926.

Outside of Princeton, the section was probably best known for its annual fall Conference on Industrial Relations. For over twenty years, starting in 1931, these conferences, artfully led by J. Douglas Brown, were revered by the blue-chip corporations in America as a strategic instrument in development of personnel administration and the management of human resources in industry. Later, as other organizations expanded their activity in this area, the section turned to conferences on major issues in public policy and on research in the various branches of industrial relations.

The contributions of members of the section's core group have been numerous and significant. Brown was one of the principal architects of our nation's social security system. Richard A. Lester's research and government service in collective bargaining, social security, manpower economics, and employment of women are held in the highest esteem. Harbison was a pioneer in the formulation and testing of ``the manpower approach'' to educational planning in developing countries. Brown, Lester, and Harbison helped organize and were subsequently presidents of the Industrial Relations Research Association. William G. Bowen made significant contributions to the theory of wages. Ashenfelter has been a leading figure particularly in the measurement of racial and minority discrimination in industrial employment. And Albert Rees was called in 1974 by President Ford to head the nation's Council on Wages and Prices.

Last, mention needs to be made of the contributions of several of these men in the central administration of the University. J. Douglas Brown became dean of the faculty and later provost. Richard A. Lester was also dean of the faculty. William G. Bowen became provost and later president. Albert Rees was also provost. One might conclude with good reason that the association of these men with industrial relations at Princeton explains, at least in part, their excellent record of performance as university administrators.

Frederick H. Harbison

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

Go to Search A Princeton Companion