Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dickinson mulls PSU offer

Centre Daily Times
(c) Copyright 2005, Centre Daily Times. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dickinson mulls PSU offer

By Anne Danahy

An agreement under consideration between Penn State and the Dickinson School of Law's board of governors would allow the university to open a campus at University Park and dissolve the law school's board of governors. That board is scheduled to discuss, and may vote on, the proposed agreement during a meeting Saturday.

According to the memorandum of understanding, Penn State would operate the Carlisle campus until at least June 30, 2015. It could close the campus after that date by giving a one-year warning to members of the board. The memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by the Carlisle Sentinel, specified that Penn State's intention is to continue operating a campus in Carlisle after 2015.

The agreement also says:

As much as $40 million may be available to improve the Carlisle campus. That would include $10 million from Penn State "for immediate investment in capital improvements and enhancements," as much as $25 million from the state and fund-raising proceeds. If matching funds cannot be obtained from the state, the agreement spelled out in the memorandum could be suspended.

The current board of governors would be dissolved and a new seven-member board would be formed. Penn State President Graham Spanier and current board Chairman H. Laddie Montague Jr. would each appoint three current members to the new board. Whoever is chairman of the board of governors when the agreement is finalized would be the new board's seventh member.

On Wednesday, Montague declined to comment until after Saturday's meeting.

In late 2003, however, Penn State proposed moving the law school to University Park; then, when faced with vocal opposition from the Carlisle community, the university proposed a dual-campus school with locations in Carlisle and University Park. The final decision, however, rested with Dickinson's board of governors.

Supporters of the dual-campus concept argued that creating a University Park campus, where law school students would benefit from interaction with other colleges, would help attract top-flight students and faculty.

Those opposed to the idea worried that the Carlisle campus would become a satellite campus -- or close entirely -- and feared the economic impact this would have on Carlisle, home to the law school since 1834.

In August, the board voted to table the dual-campus plan, and instead approved a resolution calling on Penn State to renovate and upgrade the Carlisle campus.

University officials expressed disappointment with that decision, and in September announced that the institutions were discussing ending their affiliation, and the possibility of the law school affiliating with neighboring Dickinson College.

But in November, the board of governors voted to form another committee to further pursue a two-campus agreement with the university.

Carlisle attorney and board member Hubert X. Gilroy, who voted with the majority in August, said Wednesday that he has not been contacted by anyone from Penn State but has been approached by board members and Carlisle-area residents with various points of view.

"Nobody's pressuring me," he said. "People are talking to me and stating their positions."

Gilroy said some board members feel the proposal is a fair resolution and may be eager to act positively on it, but others feel the matter has not been given enough thought and that the proposed agreement gives Carlisle even less than what Penn State offered in August.

"There's one view that supports the original merger agreement in perpetuity," Gilroy said. "There's another view that Penn State has made an academic decision that they want to move in this direction and should have the flexibility to do so."

Board member Leslie Anne Miller said she thinks this agreement is worse for the law school than the one previously considered.

"We're looking at the beginning of the end of the Dickinson School of Law," Miller said. "And this memorandum of understanding, which purports to be a dual campus agreement, is a complete sham for what is really a single campus of the Penn State law school in State College, and shame on all of us who allow this to happen."

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