The dual-campus plan that the governing body of Penn State's law school is considering has been touted as groundbreaking, but there are a few models already in place. Several universities have two law school campuses, but
their structures and history vary drastically. Penn State has the opportunity to add anoth-
er model to this rare brand of law schools.
The board of governors of The Dickinson School of Law voted June 12 to study a plan that would split the school into two campuses, one at University Park and one at Carlisle, the school's home of 170 years. Both sites would offer "full-fledged" legal education and a 15-1 student/faculty ratio.
An eight-member committee, which was named Saturday, will study the two-campus approach and report to the board Aug. 15. If the plan is approved, Penn State's board of trustees would consider the issue at its Sept. 10 meeting.
University and law school officials said there are many details to be worked out, but the two-campus plan calls for one dean, one administration and one budget. LeRoy Zimmerman, chairman of the board of governors, said the law school also would have one American Bar Association accreditation.
"It is one law school, and it is anticipated to always be one law school with two campuses," Zimmerman said.
How accreditation is achieved for a new campus is not so simple.
If a school earns ABA accreditation, it has met certain educational standards and its graduates are eligible for admission to the bar, said Nancy Sloanim, deputy press secretary for the bar association. The ABA Accreditation Committee and Council determines whether a school is in compliance with the organization's standards, according to the ABA Web site.
"ABA Standard 105: Major Change in Program or Structure" states that before a law school makes a change in its program of legal education or organizational structure, it must "obtain the acquiescence of the Council for the change." One example of a major change is establishing a branch campus, or "a separate location at which the law school offers sufficient courses that a student could earn at the separate location all of the credit hours that the law school requires for the J.D. degree," according to the bar association.
Penn State President Graham Spanier said last week that officials don't know whether there would be separate admissions processes for each campus. Law school Dean Philip McConnaughay is consulting with the bar association, Dickinson faculty and others to consider a specific approach, Spanier said.
"Students would be admitted principally to one campus or the other," Spanier said, "but would be able to take courses at the other campus, take certain courses offered jointly on both campuses, or move to the other campus for a semester or year for specialized experiences and educational opportunities."
Widener University School of Law currently has a scenario similar to Penn State's plan. The law school went through such a change in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it established a campus in Harrisburg. It also has a campus in Wilmington, Del., and the two locations share one accreditation.
Widener law school Dean Douglas E. Ray said that each campus has its own identity, but that because of the combined size -- total enrollment is about 1,600 students -- the law school is able to provide additional programs and an extensive law library collection.
Though the model is successful for Widener, Ray said, he spends less time with students, faculty and donors than he would like.
"It means the dean is able to be less personally involved in each campus," Ray said.
Rutgers University also has two law school campuses -- one in Camden and one in Newark. However, each location has its own ABA accreditation and separate administrations.
Penn State's fellow Big Ten institution Indiana University has law school campuses, each with their own accreditation, in Bloomington and Indianapolis. Colleen Kristl Pauwells, associate professor of law and director of the law library, said the original law school was founded in 1842 in Bloomington. Another law school, the Indiana Law School in Indianapolis, began to struggle during World Wars I and II and merged with the University of Indiana in 1944. The Indianapolis campus originally offered only night courses, but began a daytime program in 1969, Pauwells said.
The University of Missouri also has two law school campuses -- one in Kansas City and one in Columbia, Mo.
Dickinson board members have been contemplating the fate of the law school since November, when a confidential memorandum from McConnaughay was leaked to the media. The memo outlined possible plans for the school's future, including moving the school to University Park.