STATE COLLEGE Members of the Dickinson School of Law's board of governors, trying to decide whether to move the state's oldest law school from Carlisle, Cumberland County, toured Penn State's main campus to look over four potential new locations.
"We are confronted with an important issue and we want to make an appropriate decision with all the facts in front of us," board Chairman LeRoy Zimmerman said.
The board is considering a recommendation by the law school's dean to move the 170-year-old school from Carlisle to Penn State's main campus within the next few years. The dean cited a need for the school to upgrade facilities and improve its reputation.
Although a Commonwealth Court ruled last week that the board does not have to open its meetings to the public, officials allowed reporters to accompany members on their Saturday bus tour of University Park.
Four potential sites were identified: Parking Lot 83 North, University Drive and Park Avenue, and two locations within Innovation Park. If a new building is constructed, officials say the law school would need about 215,000 gross square feet which would cost about $60 million.
Board member Helen Balick said it would not be appropriate for board members to share their opinions on the sites.
"I think everything is on the table at this point," Balick said.
Penn State President Graham Spanier said board members and administrators share the same goal of making the law school as strong as possible.
"It is my belief that we can accomplish more here than in its current location," Spanier said.
Law school dean Philip McConnaughay said he hoped the board would be able to decide in the next few months.
Supporters of the move say remaining on the current campus would require millions of dollars in maintenance and building renovations. They say moving to State College could boost the school's reputation and allow students to take advantage of a wide variety of joint degree programs.
Opponents say the move would deliver a horrible economic blow to Carlisle, and some lawmakers say Penn State officials promised not to move the law school when the two institutions merged. Rep. William Gabig, R-Cumberland, is sponsoring a bill to prohibit Penn State from moving the law school.
Dickinson School of Law was founded in 1834 as a department of Dickinson College, a private, liberal arts college in Carlisle. Its graduates include U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor. The law school became independent in 1890 and remained so until 2000, when it merged with Penn State.