Monday, May 31, 2004

Dickinson School of Law Q&A, Part II

Centre Daily Times
(c) Copyright 2004, Centre Daily Times. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Dickinson School of Law Q&A, Part II: 'Best interest of our future law students'

The following is the second half of a question-and-answer report generated by a meeting of the Centre Daily Times editorial board and reporters and two key players in the effort to move the Dickinson School of Law from Carlisle to State College. Present were Penn State President Graham Spanier and Philip McConnaughay, Dean of Dickinson School of Law. Part I was published on Sunday.

CDT: Could you discuss the advantages and opportunities you envision for cooperation between the law school and other departments, should the school move from Carlisle to State College?

McConnaughay: I think that there are multiple advantages. They can range from at one end collaborative research with someone in a different department. And we see much of innovative thinking today at the intersection of different disciplines.

And law is no different. It could be exposed in a meaningful way by a colleague in another department to a pressing issue there, whether it's engineers or biochemists exposing lawyers to intellectual property issues or people in the athletic department exposing lawyers to sports law issues, or people in literature exposing lawyers to emerging copyright issues.

The nexus between law and these other disciplines is where innovation resides and new thinking resides and new legislative initiatives reside. And that's equally important. There are just cooperative, interesting endeavors such as co-sponsoring a symposium. When I was at the University of Illinois, I co-sponsored one symposium with a professor of African history or law and development in Africa. I co-sponsored another with a leading neuro-scientist on the values that should govern research at major research universities and the legal implications of whether a research agenda was being skewed by corporate relationships. I mean these are just fun sorts of professional academic inquiries and actual inquiries in the ordinary course of life that are just more available to plumb, so to speak, if you are with a college.

For faculty, if you can draw on a faculty member in a different department to deliver one lecture a year in your class, it's a great thing. If the engineering schools at Penn State could have law professors teaching an intellectual property class about how you can use the intellectual property of others in developing your new inventions, or how you can protect your new inventions, that's a wonderful thing, too. And it just highlights the close relationships that are possible with co-location.

CDT: Penn State has the technology in place to share intellectual materials, and has billed itself frequently as a top distance-learning institution. Couldn't the cooperative relationships be accomplished without physically moving the law school?

Spanier: There is no university in the country that is better at distance education and using information technology to facilitate instruction than Penn State is. But we know in the end that there is no substitute for being in the same room and interacting directly with fellow students and faculty members.
So for a residential program like you see in most of our Penn State programs or you see at the law school, you can look at the use of technology and distance education as an answer, but it can't really be seen as a principal method of doing business. I don't think that's going to pass muster with law school accrediting bodies, and I don't think students are going to want to flock to a law school where all of the special lectures that the dean just talked about and some part of the more interesting aspects of the instructional programs that you will see emerge in the future are done electronically.

CDT: A couple of questions regarding University Park here. You have capped the enrollment levels given the concern with community matters. How will you address this issue with all of these students being added onto the university. How far would it go?

Spanier: We are talking about something in excess of 500 students. We are now within a few hundred students of our ceiling. This would bring us closer to the ceiling but we would expect to make adjustments elsewhere in our enrollment profile so that we stay within the overall ceiling that we have projected for this campus.

We have set 42,000 as the limit here and it would be our expectation that we would remain within that. We think we can accommodate the law students here and they would have access to the same on campus and off campus housing. But it would not be purely an add-on to the current student base. We would make some adjustments elsewhere.

CDT: Do you think there would be any effect at all to the general student population -- specifically what they pay in tuition -- considering the law school coming here and the investment in making it happen?

Spanier: I don't think there would be anything very significant or noticeable. The law school right now operates on a fairly self-sufficient basis. When Penn State merged with the law school, no additional legislative appropriation was given to us so the budget at the law school is pretty independent and is primarily tuition driven. And that would continue to be the case going forward.

The only thing that would be different would be that the building for the law school would have to be integrated into our overall capital construction priorities and we have said to the Board of Governors and publicly that we would, of course, raise the level of priority for that building to a high level compared to some other projects that are in the queue now. At University Park, as you know, we project our building plans out pretty specifically over a five-year period and then somewhat more generally over a 10-year period. So all of our deans are aware that some projects that they may have hoped to get to sooner might be delayed a year or two because of the law school's higher priority in that construction queue.

CDT: Along those lines, if in fact this is approved, what will the timetable be for making the transition to State College?

Spanier: Assuming everything went smoothly and moved ahead on an accelerated schedule, we would expect a new building to open up and a new class of law students to start here in the fall of 2008.

Generally speaking, you have a year of program planning for a new building. That discussing involves faculty, architects in the physical plant, space planners and so on. Then you appoint an architect and you work for about a year in architectural design and put the project out to bid. And a building of this scope is generally on a two-year construction schedule.

CDT: So you wait until the building was built to actually make the move?

Spanier: One of the advantages of this approach -- it's not a principal advantage, but it is an auxiliary advantage -- is that when the new building is built, everybody can move into it. And there is no disruption.

If we stay in Carlisle, which of course is a very real possibility that the Board of Governors will end up (keeping the school) there, we have pledged to put some money into that solution as well. The Governor has pledged to put some money into a matching program and the community leaders in Carlisle have pledged to be supportive of that solution, although it's unclear to us yet that they have anything very specific to contribute in terms of cash. But under any scenario there will be a renovation of that facility there.

Now it's a facility that is already undersized and tight for space, how you go through the sequencing for that is very challenging and could actually take longer than this time frame. Even if it were on the same time frame, it would be difficult to logistically go through the process. And, of course, we've had to do that before and we will manage to make that happen in any event.

CDT: There is a chance that you get the governor to spend $25 million in Carlisle. Now, there is a chance that you could still get the money for Carlisle and have the money that you want here for the campus. Or is that out of the question?

Spanier: We have offered the possibility, which was not met with enthusiasm in Carlisle, if what's important in Carlisle is keeping a significant operation there and continuing to promote economic development in the area, that we would still pledge the $10 million in addition to the cost of a facility here, to renovate the facility there and to keep some significant programmatic initiatives there.

So, we think there are ways to minimize any negative impact on the Carlisle community, and we see that as something that's appropriate for a school like Penn State, which is very community-minded, to try to do. It has not been met with a lot of enthusiasm in Carlisle, I think principally because they are saying, "No, we don't want a secondary location here. We want the primary location. If you want a secondary location, great. Put it in State College. We are happy to have you do that."

CDT: Could you elaborate on what "significant programmatic initiatives" would be involved, and also elaborate on Penn State's responsibility to the Carlisle community and its economy, and how that may play out.

McConnaughay: I think that Penn State's sense of responsibility has been incredibly responsive and significant when it comes to the Carlisle community. President Spanier asked me, within weeks of this initiative becoming public, to take a very close look at what would ensure a sustained and significant economically beneficial presence in Carlisle, in the aftermath of the law school's relocation, should the Board of Governors consent to the relocation. And I did that, and I think the possibilities are quite significant. We're looking at programs that would both benefit Carlisle significantly and stay significantly, and not detract at all from law school operations, but in fact benefit law school operations.

I think we would focus on our current facilities there and renovate them, so that they were suitable as a home for continual education programs which were somewhat more modest than a full-fledged law school, but that also would serve as a basis for executive education. That is one of the biggest growth areas in the United States today. I think Penn State's entry would be very significant. I think that we would fashion the Carlisle operation as a government center of sorts, harnessing as fully as we can the advantages of Harrisburg and the presence of state government and Washington, D.C. (We would) have faculty there, we might run a part time J.D. program which we've never run before for professionals who are interested in becoming a lawyer in the course of four or five years' education rather than three. A class size there could be from 25 to 45 people. Very quickly in a five-year program you are up to 150 students.
We would have executive education which would be different in nature from what we provide now because it would not be residential. But it would put on programs in the same way that the Kennedy School of Government puts on programs at Harvard, designed to provide continuing education to public sector employees or to business executives or to politicians, about important issues of the day. And we could both have resident faculty and people we would bring in for purposes of these shorter-term classes.

It would change the nature of the economic benefit to Carlisle, but I suspect in the long run it might enhance the nature of the economic benefit because you have many more people for shorter stays using community services and investing in the community in different ways than law students invest. And I think we could probably make the government programs we would offer there available to upper classmen law students at the State College campus if they chose to reside in Carlisle for a semester or year to take advantage of what is uniquely available there and depth we could not perhaps replicate in State College.

So, I think the presence could be very significant. I think it would be economically a program which would quickly become self-sustaining. And I think that's right now just not capturing public attention because there is so much emotional investment in keeping the law school in Carlisle. But I think that is the only thing that stands between the program we are proposing and the public acknowledgement that it actually is of a very serious beneficial nature.

CDT: How many students do you see at Carlisle as a result of that new program?

McConnaughay: Well, the residential population would be lower than it is today and suitable for the facility. And the residential population might be people who are living in their own homes, executives, newspaper editors who want to be come lawyers, going to law school in a part-time program, for four or five years. And we would provide a J.D. degree for those students. They wouldn't be resident in Carlisle but they would be using Carlisle services. There might be up to 60 law students from our campus in State College who would every semester be in residence in Carlisle, whether for the classes that are uniquely offered there, or externships in Harrisburg which they might then perform on a sustained-long basis rather than for a few hours a week.

And then when it comes to the executive education, I don't see a real limit, other than your capacity to run very attractive programs. And that could be whatever number of people you can accommodate for a particular program, whether it's 50 people over a weekend, or a hundred people for a week. And throughout the year, the identities of people would change; it wouldn't be residential, although I think it would be highly attractive for the restaurants and hotels in town.

CDT: Would the facilities in Carlisle accommodate this plan?

McConnaughay: I think our existing facilities, renovated, would be highly suitable for this type of program. And President Spanier has said that he is more than happy to invest in renovation and provide operating funds for the period of time it takes for this program get up and running.

CDT: Do you see an impact, one way or another, whether the Board goes in your favor or not, with the eventual state appropriation process? It is down to ... essentially, it is 12 percent of your total budget now. Do you see an impact one way or another, or maybe not at all?

Spanier: I don't see any impact within Legislature. I think the Legislature is trying to do the best they can for Penn State and the other state-related universities. In the midst of our difficult discussions about this, the House passed our appropriation at the governor's recommended level a couple of weeks ago. And I think the Senate is prepared to take up the budget as well.

There are a few members of the Legislature, mostly concentrated around the Carlisle area, who are very strong advocates for keeping the law school there, of course. We have very open lines of communication with them. We understand each other's points of view. So we are not insensitive to the political implications of this, but I think in the end people really need to understand that it is incumbent upon us as educators to look at this from an educational standpoint first.

No one should ever accuse Penn State of being insensitive to the needs of communities. That kind of criticism would be laughable if anyone would take a moment to realize that we have 24 campuses in 24 communities of this state. We operate at a hundred different locations around Pennsylvania. There is no university in the United States that cares more about communities in which we exist, and the fact that we would commit to putting millions of dollars in construction funds and ongoing operating money to have a significant law school presence in Carlisle should demonstrate to people our concerns about the economic interests of the community.

In the end, though, we have to look at what's in the long-term best interests of our students -- attracting faculty, giving (students) the kind of education that in the next two, three, four decades is going to be necessary for them to enter the profession at the appropriate levels, and having the kinds of options that any good law school graduate should have.

CDT: If, for some reason, the Board votes to keep a law school in Carlisle, are you going to accept that as that's the final say, or will you reexamine this at a later time?

Spanier: Well, of course we would accept it. It doesn't necessarily close the door at some time down the road to a reconsideration. That would depend on the changing viewpoints of the board over time.

This is the moment for an important decision and we really hope that we can look forward 20, 40, 60 or 100 years and think about the legacy they will leave and what is the right thing to do for the thousands and thousands of graduates who will move through that law school in the future. From Penn State's standpoint, it is our law school under any scenario, and we want to do the best we can regardless of the location.

CDT: Are you confident a decision will be made on June 11-12?

Spanier: I think so and I hope so because it's consuming a lot of energy and there's a lot of angst over it. And I don't think additional time will allow for shedding of additional light. We're in a mode now where all of the light's out there, there is only growing heat. Also, from our perspective, in the end this is really about the students more than anything else -- what is in the best interest of our future law students. And we don't want another incoming class in the fall to have this unresolved.

No comments: