CORRECTION: ALUMNI AND FRIENDS OF THE DICKINSON SCHOOL OF LAW CONTRIBUTED $16 MILLION IN GIFTS AND PLEDGES IN A RECENT CAPITAL CAMPAIGN. THIS STORY INCORRECTLY STATES ALUMNI HAVE DONATED FUNDS SPECIFICALLY FOR A NEW LAW SCHOOL.
Local, county and state officials and business leaders have spent six months developing an argument to convince The Dickinson School of Law to stay in Carlisle. Today, they'll begin to make their case by presenting details of a potential local development package to the school's board of governors.
Sen. Hal Mowery, R-Cumberland, who proposed a bill that would set aside up to $34 million in state capital funding for a new law school facility in Carlisle, is expected to address the board.
Also expected to participate are Carlisle and Cumberland County officials and members of a local task force, which has gathered regularly since November at Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce.
"Collectively, we're going to try to put our best foot forward to show why the law school should remain in Carlisle," said Frank Rankin, borough council president.
Governors board Chairman LeRoy Zimmerman invited the press to today's talk despite a Commonwealth Court ruling that backed the board's position that its meetings could be held behind closed doors.
The Patriot-News and The Sentinel of Carlisle have sued to open board meetings to the public. A request to appeal the Commonwealth decision is pending before the Supreme Court.
The board's actions are also under the scrutiny of alumni and others who have said a move would betray the school's 1997 merger agreement with Penn State University that stated Dickinson would remain in Carlisle.
Only the 35-member board can approve a move.
In November, the group heard a proposal to move Dickinson to a $60 million facility in University Park near parent institution Penn State. The law school needs upgrades, and Dean Philip McConnaughay has said moving Dickinson to State College would improve academic opportunities and boost the school's national rankings.
McConnaughay said Penn State's support for local expansion would be considerably less than $60 million.
Earlier this month, Penn State President Graham Spanier led the board on a tour of the university's main campus.
Rankin said no tour of Carlisle is planned today -- unless the board asks for one.
And Carlisle leaders aren't likely to say they can match Penn State's $60 million offer.
But Rankin said details on finance packages, grants and other development incentives will be laid out so board members know that renovating Dickinson's Trickett Hall or building a new law school in or close to Carlisle is a viable alternative.
Dickinson alumni have so far pledged $16 million toward a new Carlisle facility.
"In many if not all decisions, money does seem to talk. It's clearly a big item and the members of the task force and the state [officials] have always kept that in mind," Rankin said.