Saturday, March 06, 2004

Dual campuses for Dickinson is "unique" idea ----- uniquely bad

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Saturday, March 6, 2004

A Section

Dual campuses for Dickinson is "unique" idea

Of Our Carlisle Bureau

If The Dickinson School of Law moves to University Park, its Carlisle campus could remain a vibrant learning center. Penn State President Graham Spanier discussed the possibility last month of having two Dickinson campuses. Yesterday, school Dean Philip McConnaughay described how the arrangement could work.

McConnaughay said that if the law school's main home moved to State College, most undergraduate law students and faculty would move with it.

Trickett Hall in Carlisle then could become a branch campus for scholars in advanced law and government studies. They would be taught by Dickinson professors based in Carlisle and experts in state and local government offices.

McConnaughay suggested it could be known as Dickinson's Institute of Government Law.

The center would offer advanced degrees to practicing lawyers and government employees and year-long courses to leaders from developing nations.

"We're really talking about an expansion of the law school. We would try to add some depth in government-related activities," McConnaughay said. "I think it would be unique in the U.S."

McConnaughay said he thinks a branch campus would satisfy local and state leaders' demands that Dickinson stay in Carlisle.

"It's true that this solves potentially some of the political uproar over a move. It's equally true that this program could be of significant benefit economically to Carlisle and the region," McConnaughay said.

He outlined his suggestions this week in a letter to the Dickinson board of governors.

Board Chairman LeRoy Zimmerman, who had not yet read program descriptions, called it a ?fascinating proposal.??

"On the face of it, it sounds appealing," he said.

Robert M. Frey, an emeritus member of the board, hadn't seen the letter but said there is no guarantee the proposed programs would attract enough students to sustain a second campus.

He said the concept was premature since the board, which alone has the power to recommend moving the school, hasn't made a decision about Dickinson's future location.

Citing a decline in national rankings and the need for upgrades at the Carlisle facility, McConnaughay proposed a move in November. He said Penn State offered to build a $60 million facility for Dickinson in University Park.

The board has suspended discussions on the issue pending its appeal of a Cumberland County Court decision to open board meetings to the public.

The Patriot-News and The Sentinel of Carlisle convinced the county court that the board is a Penn State body and should not bar the public and media from its meetings.

If the school stays in Carlisle, McConnaughay said only some of the latest ideas would be pursued.

McConnaughay said Penn State would initially fund a branch campus with the expectation it would eventually be sustained on fees and tuition. No cost estimate has been made, he said.

The institute, McConnaughay said, stands to make Carlisle a destination for new, regular visitors.

"It could be of significant economic benefit to the region," McConnaughay said.

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