Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dickinson School of Law board to weigh revised State College proposal

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Vote expected on 2-campus plan ; Dickinson School of Law board to weigh revised State College proposal

Of Our Carlisle Bureau

After more than a year of debating the future home of The Dickinson School of Law, the school's board of governors will this weekend weigh a revised plan for a second law campus in State College. But there's no guarantee the discussion will lead to a final decision.

Since November 2003, the board and Penn State have considered proposals to renovate the school in Carlisle, move it to State College or operate campuses in both places.

On Saturday, the board will vote for or against a two-campus operation, board Chairman Laddie Montague said.

A second campus would require more than the governors' endorsement, Montague said. Penn State trustees must also agree to the plan. The schools merged in 2000.

Also, the board of governors must consider whether opening a second campus could eventually force the Carlisle campus to close. If the Carlisle campus appears to be at risk, the board would have to write changes into the Penn State/Dickinson merger contract.

Those steps could take months. Then the board would have to meet to vote on a specific plan.

Montague said he hopes Saturday's talks will at least end the struggle over the school's location. He said a board negotiating team labored to resolve differences with Penn State and develop the latest proposal.

In August, the board asked for more time to study a two-campus proposal from Penn State but the university said it was finished haggling.

Penn State reconsidered. Still, some board members have been wary of Penn State's long-term intentions and are likely to attack the revised plan.

A major sticking point in previous talks was whether Penn State would promise to maintain the Carlisle campus and for how long. That came up in the latest round of negotiations, Montague said.

Some board members wanted Penn State to promise that a State College campus wouldn't overshadow Carlisle's campus. One suggestion called for a Penn State to maintain the Carlisle campus for at least 10 years after opening a second campus.

When it merged with Dickinson, the university promised to keep the law school in Carlisle. The board of governors' chief duty is to make sure Penn State keeps that vow.

Penn State and others have accused the board of standing in the way of the school's success. Penn State claimed the school's best chances for rising in national rankings lay in a move to the main university campus.

Montague said the board was just carrying out its obligation to Dickinson.

"Every person on the board has done what they think is best for the law school," Montague said.

 ELIZABETH GIBSON: 249-2006 or egibson@patriot-news.com INFOBOX: TIME TO MEET

On Saturday, The Dickinson School of Law's board of governors will weigh a revised plan for a second law campus in State College. The meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. in Trickett Hall on South College Street in Carlisle.

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