CARLISLE After two days of intense discussions, the board of governors of Penn State's Dickinson School of Law voted unanimously Saturday to further study the idea of creating one law school with campuses in both Carlisle and State College.
Penn State President Graham Spanier and board Chairman LeRoy Zimmerman issued memos to the board Thursday advocating the two-campus system. Under that plan, full-scale legal-education programs would be offered at the Carlisle facilities and at a new facility on Penn State's main campus. The two campuses would share one dean, one administration and one budget, a novel approach to legal education, officials said.
"It's a win-win in every respect, in my opinion, and that's why I can advocate it," Zimmerman said.
If approved, the dual-campus system would begin in 2008.
According to the board of governors' resolution, "this proposal supersedes all previous proposals from Penn State regarding the location of The Dickinson School of Law."
The resolution states that the board "desires to further explore the many benefits that may inure to The Dickinson School of Law if there are two campus locations" of the law school.
The resolution also calls for Zimmerman to convene a seven-person committee to further study the proposal. The committee is to present its findings to the board for approval Aug. 15. Penn State's board of trustees would likely vote on the plan at its Sept. 10 meeting.
The board was originally scheduled to vote this weekend on whether to move the bulk of the law school's operations to University Park or keep the school in Carlisle and renovate facilities there.
"It's a Plan B that I think turned out in the end to be the best plan," Spanier said.
The board has been considering the issue of co-location versus renovation since November, when a confidential memo from law school Dean Philip McConnaughay to board members was leaked to the media. The memo outlined several options for addressing the low rankings and strained facilities of the 170-year-old school -- Pennsylvania's oldest law school.
The 35-member board composed of Dickinson alumni, including U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who graduated from Dickinson in 1972, convened behind closed doors Friday.
As the board adjourned Saturday, most members went directly to their cars and declined to comment.
Lewis Katz, a New Jersey lawyer who owns the New Jersey Nets, told a crowd of reporters, "(The meeting) was wonderful."
Carlisle lawyer Jason Kutulakis said the two-campus proposal meant that the hard work and questions raised by the board of governors was noticed by Penn State administrators and that Spanier and the board of trustees stood behind the law school.
Carlisle officials, who vigorously opposed any idea of moving the school, were cautiously optimistic about the new proposal but said more options have to be explored.
Carlisle Mayor Kirk Wilson said he would feel a bit more comfortable with the plan if he knew the borough would serve as the "main campus" of the law school.
During the 2003-04 school year, Dickinson enrolled about 640 students. Under the dual-campus proposal, the Carlisle location would enroll about 300 students, while 450 would be enrolled at Penn State's main campus.
Penn State has promised to fund a new $60 million building for the law school at University Park. Those funds would be raised through borrowing and philanthropy, said Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business. The university has pledged $10 million toward the estimated $25 million cost of renovating Dickinson's Trickett Hall.
Gov. Ed Rendell has pledged $10 million for renovations, and the additional $5 million would be raised through Carlisle and philanthropy.
Spanier said the renovations would likely include improvements to mechanical systems, roofing and the technology for videoconferencing.
The building boom would also mean a hiring boom at Penn State. Spanier said he would expect to hire at least a dozen new faculty members to staff the Carlisle and University Park locations.