Penn State President Graham Spanier is intent on moving the Dickinson School of Law to State College. The agreement under which Penn State purchased the Dickinson School of Law clearly stated the intent for it to remain in Carlisle.
However, Spanier has announced his interpretation that it is legally OK to move the school.
He proposes that the clearly stated intent to remain in Carlisle be supplanted by legalistic hair splitting. That proposal would make a fascinating and timely case study in professional and academic ethics that should be immediately incorporated into the Dickinson curriculum.
Has Spanier considered the message his current campaign sends to future lawyers: that it is OK to subvert agreements and contracts; that legalistic maneuvering counts more than principle?
The benefits of moving the Detroit School of Law to the Michigan State campus have been cited to support the Dickinson move. However, the Detroit School of Law was an academic foundling that had been thrown out of its home and needed to be taken in.
The attempt to move the Dickinson School of Law to State College is more akin to a kidnapping.
The Dickinson School of Law's facilities need upgrading, but the school does not require a vast campus. Spanier could put more effort into upgrading academics and looking for local solutions to facility problems. For example, renovation or reconstruction of current facilities could be coupled with expansion into the nearby site soon to be vacated by Carlisle Regional Medical Center.
Spanier may feel that moving the school to State College would be an academic feather in his cap, his legacy to the school. In fact, living up to the spirit (not just the legalistic letter) of his predecessors' agreement would leave a far more meaningful legacy of ethical conduct and integrity.