The namesake son of former Dickinson School of Law Dean John Maher yesterday congratulated Penn State for getting to the bottom of a mystery that has baffled philosophers for ages. How long is forever?
"Astonishingly, that answer is under 10 years," said Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny, during Penn State's House budget hearing yesterday.
Maher was referring to the Penn State and Dickinson School of Law merger in 1997. Officials then said the law school would remain in Carlisle forever, he said.
"Forever has expired," said Maher, a Carlisle native whose father served as dean of the law school from 1989 to 1994.
The law school's board of governors is considering whether to keep the school in Carlisle or move it to State College. Law school Dean Philip McConnaughay last fall proposed moving the school to address space needs and changing trends in legal education. That could lead to improved national rankings, he said.
Penn State has offered to build a $60 million facility to house the law school at its University Park campus.
In comments made to Penn State President Graham Spanier, Maher admonished the university for making the $60 million offer. He asked Spanier to commit to allowing the law school's board of governors to make the decision ?free of that coercion by assuring whatever financial incentives are being offered to the law school will be even, regardless of whether it resides in State College or Carlisle.??
After the hearing, Spanier, who didn't know Maher by name, said he was going to ask McConnaughay to talk to him.
"I'm not sure he's gotten all of the information right," Spanier said. "At the time of the merger, we did not contemplate the law school moving. That's something that has come up more recently as a possibility, and we'll explain that to him and give him a little more of the background."
Maher wasn't the only lawmaker to make a case for keeping the law school in Carlisle.
Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Franklin, said the south-central Pennsylvania legislators are as protective of keeping the law school in Carlisle as they are about keeping Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey.
"We consider it ours," Fleagle said.
He said there was concern voiced when Penn State and the law school merged about ?a monster coming down and taking over.?? The university allayed those concerns by enhancing the law school's image, he said. Now, those worries have resurfaced.
Spanier said the university is mindful of the law school's importance to the region, but its responsibility is to do what's in the best interests of future students.
He also elaborated on a compromise idea that he proposed that involves keeping part of the school at Trickett Hall in Carlisle and moving the rest to a new facility at University Park.
He envisions Trickett Hall would be used for offering a part- time law degree program, graduate programs for lawyers, programs that could be shared between campuses and "an executive-level education program," similar to one offered at Harvard's JFK School of Government.
Fleagle responded, "Dickinson is important to us ... .We will work with you in any way possible for any type of situation that will enable them to stay [in Carlisle]."