Saturday, October 16, 2004

Law school board wary of new idea for merger

Copyright (c) 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Law school board wary of new idea for merger ; Dickinson College vows programs to boost ranking

Of Our Carlisle Bureau

Like jilted lovers, some members of The Dickinson School of Law's board of governors say it's too soon to consider a new relationship. Others appeared tempted by the prospect of leaving parent institution Penn State University and merging with next-door neighbor Dickinson College.

"It's entirely likely we would have a beautiful marriage, but we're already married," board member and Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin said.

Eakin and other members said Penn State reneged on its promise to enhance the law school whether or not it relocated to State College.

Board members said they are angry that Penn State President Graham Spanier initiated talks with Dickinson College without consulting the governors board. They have been excluded from negotiations between the college and university, board members said.

Emeritus board member Robert M. Frey, however, urged the others to consider a college merger. ?The law school is languishing now. If it languishes long enough, it will self-destruct,?? he said.

Dickinson College President Bill Durden yesterday presented his vision for a Dickinson/Dickinson affiliation.

He said that when he arrived at the college in 1999, it was drifting and had slipped in national rankings. Since then, it has risen in the rankings, boosted its endowment and added award- winning programs.

He promised similar changes for the law school.

Durden said law students could take advantage of college global learning programs and could earn master's degrees through partnerships with such schools as Johns Hopkins University.

Durden is in discussions with Spanier. He said he expects to know by the end of the year whether the college can acquire the law school without taking on a financial burden.

He said that if the college offers to merge with the law school, it would demand a quick decision.

The law school's future has been in the balance since last November, when Penn State proposed relocating it to State College.

University officials said a State College presence would make the school more competitive and give students new educational opportunities.

But law board members, state and local elected officials and community leaders, including Durden, spoke against a move.

Penn State then suggested keeping a law campus in Carlisle and opening a second in State College.

A condition of the plan was that the board of governors give up its authority over the law school.

The governors board, which doesn't run the school but can veto plans to move it or change its name, voted 22-12 to delay acting on the two-campus plan. Instead, the board voted to support a $50 million renovation of the Carlisle campus.

Spanier said then that Penn State would develop a new vision for the law school. A month later, he said the university was considering ending its partnership.

Like Penn State, Dickinson College would expect the governors board to abandon its authority.

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