CARLISLE -- Penn State gained a law school yesterday, and it was almost as if nobody noticed.
Between recent grads cramming for the bar exams, current students moving into new apartments and the general pause brought on by a summer holiday, there was no fanfare to accompany Merger Day -- the day Dickinson School of Law's much-discussed formal consolidation with Penn State University takes effect.
Eric Smith, a 1997 graduate staying around for the bar exams, confessed to remembering about the merger only when he saw news coverage of Hong Kong's pass-back from Great Britain to China.
?I don't think it was mentioned at all,? Smith, a Schnecksville native, said yesterday. ?But then we all have other things on our minds.'
Despite the lack of fanfare, law school officials declared it a momentous occasion.
?Today is the beginning of a very exciting partnership that we think will benefit both schools,' said Deb Ryerson, law school spokeswoman.
While Penn State is now responsible for the law school -- which is not affiliated with neighboring Dickinson College -- the 163-year-old law school is expected to retain much of its autonomy.
That, some of those still around yesterday said, is one reason why they have grown to support the move.
?I'm actually very excited about it,? said Ellen Farina, a rising third-year student. ?I picked Dickinson because of its size and its sense of community . . . and as long as that doesn't change, I completely think it's a positive step.'
In some ways, Ryerson said, evidence of the merger, to be completed by 2000, can already be found on the campus.
Perhaps the most noticeable shift is a rise in the percentage of applicants who are accepting offers of admission to the school, Ryerson said.
?We have heard (applicants say), ?I became interested in (Dickinson) more when I heard of the merger,' because they do want to be affiliated with a Big Ten school,' she said.
Similarly, a lot of Penn State administrators and faculty have made their interest in being associated with the law school clear, Ryerson said. ?The minute the news of the merger broke a lot of people at Penn State started calling and saying ?When can we get together?',' she said.
The new relationship will spawn joint degree programs and opportunities for faculty at both schools to teach interdisciplinary courses, Ryerson said.
Other changes will be noticed by returning students this fall.
The school's book store, to be run by national retailer Barnes and Noble, will move across the hall from its current space in Trickett Hall once renovations are completed. ?It will be a bit bigger,' Ryerson said. ?They're going to sell more clothing and more paraphernalia than we used to.'
?There is not a new logo (though) everyone was expecting a new logo,' she said.
Instead, stationery bears a combination of the official Penn State mark and The Dickinson School of Law name.
The Penn State name will be added to brass plaques outside Trickett Hall but the main law school sign is unchanged.
Staff Writer Charles Thompson contributed to this report.