The future of The Dickinson School of Law now rests with Penn State University and Gov. Ed Rendell. The school's board of governors yesterday gave final approval, in a 20-14 vote, to have Penn State open a second law school campus in State College.
As part of the vote, the board agreed to relinquish its authority to the university.
It was a landmark decision for the group, all lawyers and Dickinson alumni. Their debate in Trickett Hall was marked by the congeniality of longtime colleagues, but was tinged with the loss of some common ground and the knowledge they wouldn't meet again.
However, the plan could come unhinged if Rendell and Penn State can't strike a deal by June 1.
The university wants to renovate the Carlisle campus but needs state money to do so. Rendell said he'll release the money if Penn State vows to keep the Carlisle campus open more than 10 years.
Yesterday, the dickering continued but each side was optimistic.
Penn State President Graham Spanier said he is "absolutely" certain he can meet Rendell's terms.
"I have not yet spoken to the governor about this, nor has his staff proposed any specific conditions. Now that we have a final vote of the board of governors, I assume that we will complete such discussions soon," he said.
Rendell spokeswoman Kate Philips said the governor hopes to reach an agreement "in the next couple of weeks."
But the uncertainty lent fuel to board members who battled to retain their power and force Penn State to make a better offer.
After the board last month gave preliminary approval for two campuses, board members Leslie Anne Miller, G. Thomas Miller and Tom Monteverde sued the board, Penn State and others in Cumberland County Court. They aim to suspend the plan until, among things, Penn State supplies more details about the two-campus plan.
Leslie Anne Miller is Rendell's general counsel and offered to resign if her suit interfered with her dealings with Penn State. Rendell has not accepted her resignation. Miller voted by phone against the plan yesterday.
Her father, G. Thomas Miller, couldn't win majority support for a series of demands he made yesterday during the 31/2-hour meeting. They included insisting Penn State keep the Carlisle campus open at least 20 years and spend more than the $10 million promised toward Carlisle renovations.
He drew rancor from members who've been mostly silent about their support for Penn State's plan.
Member Lewis Katz said the lawsuit has delayed Penn State and Rendell in reaching terms.
J. Rodman Steele Jr. called Miller and others obstructionists. He called for an end to barbs thrown at those who support Penn State and to charges that Penn State holds hidden motives.
Yesterday, two members reversed their January votes against the preliminary two-campus plan. Without comment, U.S. Middle District Senior Judge Sylvia Rambo and Anthony Falvello, a Sugarloaf area attorney, voted for Penn State's plan.
Their votes canceled out those cast by Robert Frey and Monteverde, who yesterday were restored as voting board members. The men had been emeritus members who took part in talks but whose votes did not count last month.
Tom Ridge, the former U.S. homeland security secretary who was Pennsylvania's governor when Penn State and Dickinson merged in 2000, said that while board members have clashed over Penn State's plans, each is equally committed to Dickinson.
The board was formed as part of the merger. Its chief duty was to halt any attempt to move the school. It stepped in when Penn State proposed in 2003 to move the school from Carlisle to State College.
Penn State argued that a presence on the main university campus would enhance offerings for students and boost the law school's national rankings. But objections from the board, lawmakers and Rendell prompted the university to withdraw the proposal and instead offer a two-campus proposal. Penn State said it would renovate Carlisle and build a $60 million law facility in State College.
Serious divisions among the governors board followed.
Ridge said that, until yesterday, Dickinson was the only university-associated law school to have a board with control independent of its parent school. He voted to dissolve the board and support a campus at State College.
"I feel good about the law school's future. I feel confident that the dust will settle," Ridge said.
Carlisle Borough Councilwoman Linda Cecconello didn't share his confidence.
"In my heart of hearts, it kind of disturbs me that [the board] has given up the ship," she said.
Cecconello said she doesn't believe the university is truly committed to keeping a school in Carlisle. "I don't think Dickinson School of Law is here forever," she said.
But Spanier said the plan for two campuses is a dual commitment.
"We are committed to the-long term success of the law school in Carlisle and [State College]," he said. ELIZABETH GIBSON: 249- 2006 or firstname.lastname@example.org INFOBOX:
THE STORY SO FAR
* The Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle merged with Penn State University in 2000.
* In 2003, Penn State proposed moving the school to its main campus in State College, saying the proximity would enhance students' education and job prospects and improve the school's rankings.
* Penn State withdrew the proposal after objections from the community, lawmakers and the law school governors board. Penn State then offered to contribute $10 million toward a $50 million renovation of the Carlisle law campus and build a $60 million law campus in State College.
* Three law board members have sued Penn State and others in Cumberland County Court to, among other things, force the university to reveal how long it will operate the Carlisle law campus.
* The law school board yesterday voted 20-14 to back Penn State's two-campus plan. The vote dissolves the board and gives Penn State permanent control over the school's location. The decision could be voided if Penn State doesn't agree with Gov. Ed Rendell by June 1 on state grant money Penn State will use in Carlisle.
* If Penn State and Rendell agree on terms, Carlisle renovations are to begin by September. Sites and designs for the State College campus are being considered.
HOW THEY VOTED Those voting for the two-campus plan: H. Laddie Montague Jr., board chairman, Philadelphia Zygmunt R. Bialkowski Jr., Scranton Ward A. Bower, Newton Square William R. Caroselli, Pittsburgh J. Michael Eakin, Harrisburg Anthony C. Falvello, Sugarloaf Lewis Katz, Cherry Hill, N.J. Edwin L. Klett, Pittsburgh Sidney D. Kline Jr., Reading Michelle Moore, Atlanta Christylee Peck, Harrisburg Sylvia H. Rambo, Harrisburg Tom Ridge, Washington, D.C. Dale F. Shugart Jr., Carlisle Donald C. Smaltz, Torrence, Calif. J. Rodman Steele Jr., West Palm Beach, Fla. Tracy L. Steele, Philadelphia Donald C. Taylor, Wilmington, Del. Nathan H. Waters Jr., Harrisburg LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Harrisburg Those against the two-campus plan: Helen S. Balick, Wilmington, Del. Robert M. Frey, Carlisle Kathleen P. Galop, Madison, N.J. Hubert X. Gilroy, Carlisle M. Fletcher Gornall, Erie Jason P. Kutulakis, Carlisle Joan Dawley Maher, Carlisle G. Thomas Miller, Harrisburg Leslie Anne Miller, Harrisburg Tom P. Monteverde, Philadelphia Joseph Nadel, San Francisco, Calif. Arthur L. Piccone, Wilkes- Barre Michael T. Traxler, Carlisle Sandor Yelen, Wilkes-Barre Jan R. Jurden, Wilmington, Del., did not attend.
TABULAR OR GRAPHIC MATERIAL SET FORTH IN THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT DISPLAYABLE
PHOTO; JOE HERMITT; Caption: Former Gov. Tom Ridge voted in favor of opening a second Dickinson School of Law campus in State College.; G. Thomas Miller wanted the board to require that Dickinson School of Law remain in Carlisle for at least 20 years.
Centre Daily Times
The board of governors of The Dickinson School of Law voted 20-14 today to approve an agreement with Penn State to creates a dual-campus law school. Penn State spokesman Tysen Kendig said the university had expected the law school board's approval of a plan to retain the Carlisle campus for at least 10 years and have another campus at the university's headquarters just outside State College.
Laddie Montague Jr., chairman of Dickinson's board of governors, said each campus will "offer unique opportunities," the Centre Daily Times reported.
The university's trustees voted to accept the plan Jan. 21.
A lawsuit filed by board members who oppose the dual-campus plan alleges that the plan would "unilaterally terminate" a deal that required Penn State to keep the law school permanently in Carlisle and maintain it as the primary location.
The lawsuit is still pending in Cumberland County court.
By Adam Smeltz The Dickinson School of Law officially cleared the way Saturday for a dual-campus plan, approving a formal agreement with Penn State despite a pending lawsuit.
At a meeting at Dickinson's Carlisle campus, the school's board of governors voted 20-14 in favor of the plan. It calls for the Carlisle campus to be improved and remain in place for at least 10 years while a second branch -- a $60 million law school building -- gains footing at University Park.
H. Laddie Montague Jr., chairman of Dickinson's board, said Saturday that each campus will "offer unique opportunities."
Edwin Klett, of Pittsburgh, another member of the board, said he had no reservations about the agreement.
And member Don Smaltz, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., said the plan will allow students to continue to work at Harrisburg-area agencies and give them access to "the halls of academia" at University Park.
"Just because there's a time agreement written, I don't expect the campus at Carlisle would be closed," Smaltz said.
Tysen Kendig, a Penn State spokesman, said the university expected -- and applauds -- the board's vote. Penn State's trustees voted to accept the plan Jan. 21.
Kendig said university officials need to talk with Gov. Ed Rendell about the release of state funds for the project and to work on additional fund-raising campaigns. Then they can move forward with specific plans for the campuses, he said.
"All the other road blocks seem to have been cleared," Kendig said.
Still, a lawsuit intended to halt development of the University Park component remains unresolved. Some members of Dickinson's board have alleged that Penn State used "mind control, economic duress and intimidation" to win support for the dual-campus plan.
The case, first heard Feb. 18, will go before a judge in Cumberland County again next month.
Dickinson, established in 1834, completed a merger with Penn State in 2000. Philip J. McConnaughay, the school's dean, proposed in 2003 to relocate Dickinson to University Park and to close the Carlisle campus. But the idea lost momentum when Carlisle leaders vigorously opposed it.