CARLISLE The Penn State Dickinson School of Law will continue to have just one campus -- in Carlisle.
The law school's board of governors voted 22-12 Friday to shelve a proposal for two campuses -- one in Carlisle and one in State College -- and work with Penn State to revamp the current campus at an estimated cost of $50 million.
"I think the board of governors' decision was a good one. I think we trust (Penn State) President (Graham) Spanier to work with the board of governors, with the university, to develop and build and plan and finance a new law school in Carlisle," LeRoy Zimmerman, president of the board of governors, said after the meeting. "We must have a new facility here to remain competitive in the law market for education."
"The decision not to accept the two-campus proposal for the law school is disappointing, but we will do our best to move ahead constructively from here," Spanier said in a news release.
Rodney Erickson, executive vice president and provost of Penn State, said after the vote that while Spanier and other university administrators have made it clear they're supportive of the law school, any financial decisions -- including whether the university's offer of $10 million to support renovations on the Carlisle campus still stands -- are up to the board of trustees.
"Ultimately, the board of trustees of Penn State will have to take under consideration all of the plans that would involve a building of any kind at The Dickinson School of Law, including the $10 million," Erickson said.
Penn State and Dickinson, which was founded in 1834, became affiliated in 1997. Last year, the board of governors began considering a proposal to move the law school to University Park and keep a satellite campus in Carlisle, which university officials said would improve the law school's rankings, help it attract top faculty and students, and address a lack of space in Carlisle.
The idea met strong opposition from the Carlisle community and some faculty, and it was replaced with a two-campus plan. Penn State officials had asked for a decision on the two-campus proposal -- which included an offer by the university to build a $60 million facility at University Park and spend $10 million on the Carlisle campus -- by Sunday.
The proposal also would have given ultimate authority on keeping either the University Park site or the Carlisle campus operational to the Penn State board of trustees -- an idea that didn't seem to appeal to many on the board of governors.
On Monday, the law school committee that looked into that proposal recommended further study of the two-campus approach, but only if the school would stay in Carlisle "in perpetuity." The university wanted to reserve the right, after 10 years of a dual-campus operation, to close either campus or to hand the Carlisle campus back to the law school and end its affiliation with Penn State, if the law school opposed the closure.
But Friday the board of governors ended up voting on a proposal, offered by board member Lewis Katz via speakerphone from the Olympics in Athens, to focus on the Carlisle campus.
"I think this is an outstanding day for The Dickinson School of Law," said board member Jason Kutulakis, who amended the motion to include the timetable and estimated price tag of renovations at the campus. "This is a no-lose situation. This is a win-win. The Dickinson School of Law will have a new facility in Carlisle. And if the opportunity arises or if the need arises in the future to discuss some future relationship, being located at University Park, that door is completely open."
But Leslie Anne Miller, who voted no, said she was concerned that the board ended up considering a different motion than it had planned. She said the one approved by the board did not guarantee that the law school will stay in Carlisle.
"This battle is far from over, despite the glee that seems to pervade this room," Miller said.
One board member expressed concern about the law school's ability to raise the money, and another worried about the loss in guaranteed funding from Penn State.
Friday's meeting was the first to take place since Gov. Ed Rendell signed a bill requiring the board of governors to make its meetings public, Zimmerman noted.