Officials at The Dickinson School of Law are considering moving the 169-year-old institution to State College. The law school's board of governors is expected to weigh the proposal at a two-day meeting next week. The law school would move to Pennsylvania State University's main campus in fall 2008 if the plan is approved.
Officials point to cramped classrooms at Dickinson and a boxed- in campus.
?It's obviously very clear that the existing facilities of the law school are inadequate for the current future need,?? said Tysen Kendig, a spokesman for Penn State, the law school's parent institution.
?No decisions have been made or are even pending,?? he said, but if the governors board voted to move to State College, ?Penn State would certainly provide the facility to accommodate such a move.??
Supporters of the law school said yesterday that they would fight plans to move the institution.
Students and alumni said moving the school would rob would-be lawyers of real-life classrooms in the midstate's many courtrooms and law offices.
?I am aware of rumors about efforts to move the law school to the Penn State University campus. I hope they will not come to fruition. The law school belongs in Carlisle,?? said G. Thomas Miller, a 1948 alumnus and member of Dickinson's board of governors.
Hubert Gilroy, another board member, said no formal action is expected at next week's meeting.
Miller said few people on the 36-person board would favor the move.
LeRoy S. Zimmerman, chairman of the board, declined to comment on the proposal. ?We must look at all options that are presented to us,?? he said.
Law school Dean Phillip J. McConnaughay was tight-lipped about what he would tell the board.
?It is not appropriate for me to comment ... until after university officials and the board have had the opportunity to deliberate and set policy in the best interests of the law school and its students, graduates, faculty and staff,?? he said in a statement yesterday.
McConnaughay's proposal was outlined in a confidential memo obtained by The Sentinel of Carlisle. The dean cited a need to expand and concerns about the law school's ?languishing reputation.??
The law school received a third-tier ranking in the annual survey of colleges and graduate schools by U.S. News & World Report magazine.
The memo also mentioned university officials have had difficulty raising enough money to finance an expansion at the Carlisle campus. A six-year campaign to raise $16 million ?yielded only $9 million in cash,?? said McConnaughay, who said he did not want to finance the expansion by increasing tuition, which is $24,300 a year.
A facility at Penn State would cost more than $60 million, but the university is prepared to pick up the cost if a design is completed within a year, McConnaughay's memo stated.
The once-independent law school -- which is not affiliated with neighboring Dickinson College -- merged with Penn State in 1997. At the time, law school and Penn State officials vowed Dickinson would remain in Carlisle.
Ron Turo, a 1981 law school alumnus, said he always suspected that was a hollow promise.
?The idea of a community-based, local law school was gone when Penn State sealed the deal. Penn State will put its law school where it wants. This is the logical conclusion to the process,?? he said.
Carlisle Borough Council President Steve Fishman said he was concerned about how a possible law school move would affect local businesses and community organizations.
?The financial impact is going to be devastating,?? Fishman said.
Robert N. Michaels, a second-year law student, said space is a problem at the school. ?It's hard to find a place to plug in your laptop in the library or classroom,?? he said.
But Michaels, who interns for the Adams County public defender, said moving the law school would be a mistake.
It would be nearly impossible for students to find substitutes for intern opportunities available in the midstate, he said. Students work in federal, state and county courts as well as in the region's law offices.
In Dauphin County alone, there are 2,260 registered attorneys and 205 legal establishments. Centre County, home of State College, has 209 registered lawyers and 46 legal establishments.
?Not only are there more job opportunities in Harrisburg, but the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia firms have satellite offices in Harrisburg and they pay fairly well. Who has satellite offices in State College??? asked 1991 Dickinson alumna Norina Blynn of Camp Hill.
?Dickinson has been part of the legal landscape for, like, 100 years. I believe a lot of people, myself included, would be very disappointed to see Dickinson move out of town,?? said Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis, a 1972 alumnus and adjunct Dickinson professor.
Miller said the law school is obligated to continue its commitment to the Carlisle community.
A move for Dickinson, he said, ?is far from a done deal as far as my wife and I are concerned.??