Carlisle - The dean of Penn State University's law school is recommending that its governing board move the school to State College within five years, citing a need to expand and concerns about its "languishing reputation," a newspaper reported Nov. 12.
The Sentinel of Carlisle based its report on a confidential memo written by Dickinson School of Law Dean Phil McConnaughay in preparation for a meeting of the school's board of governors on Nov. 21 and 22.
The law school, which merged with Penn State in 2000, received a third-tier ranking in an annual survey of colleges and graduate schools compiled by U.S. News & World Report.
The school's "languishing reputation" prompted alumni from one law firm to inform the dean that the firm would no longer hire any Dickinson graduates "because of our low rank," McConnaughay wrote.
The memo also mentioned that university officials have had difficulty raising enough money to finance an expansion at the existing Carlisle campus. A six-year campaign to raise $16 million "yielded only $9 million in cash," according to McConnaughay, who said he did not want to finance the expansion by increasing tuition, which is currently $24,300 a year.
The existing campus lacks adequate classrooms, faculty offices, library space, student areas, courtrooms, an auditorium and electrical power to support basic programs and technology, he said.
The law school would relocate to Penn State's main campus by the fall of 2008 if the proposal is approved. The new facility is expected to 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 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. Fishman said the borough and Dickinson College have jointly offered to help the school so that it can remain in Carlisle.
McConnaughay responded to the newspaper's report by issuing a statement that said he could not comment on the memo until after university officials and the board considered it and made a decision. LeRoy S. Zimmerman, chairman of the board of trustees, declined to comment on the memo.
"We must look at all options that are presented to us," Zimmerman said.
Founded in 1834, Dickinson is Pennsylvania's oldest law school. It was initially a department of Dickinson College, a private, liberal arts college in Carlisle, but became independent from the college in 1890.