A committee that has been examining a plan to transform Dickinson School of Law into a two-campus school will meet Monday in Harrisburg to make its recommendation to the school's board of governors. LeRoy Zimmerman, chairman of the board and a member of the committee, said the board of governors will then meet Friday to vote on the plan to create a campus in University Park in addition to the current campus in Carlisle.
He said the hope is the dual-campus approach can move forward. "Obviously it depends on the details and what the two sides are able to agree upon," he said.
Under the proposal, the two campuses would share one dean, one administration and one budget. Trickett Hall at the Carlisle campus would undergo a $25 million renovation. Penn State would pay for $10 million of that, and Gov. Ed Rendell has pledged $10 million for the project. At University Park, a $60 million building would be constructed.
The buildings would be outfitted with equipment, such as videoconferencing technology, to allow for students to take classes at both campuses.
The two campuses would operate as one law school with a targeted 15-1 ratio of students to faculty. The goal would be for 450 students to attend school at the University Park campus and 300 students to study at the Carlisle campus.
"The two-campus proposal does not pit the Carlisle campus against the University Park campus in a competition for students; it delivers the advantages of both locations to all of our students," Philip McConnaughay, dean of the law school, said in a statement posted on the school's Web site.
The board was originally considering a plan to move the bulk of the law school to the University Park campus, leaving only a satellite campus in Carlisle. McConnaughay and Penn State officials said such a a move would provide more opportunities to interact with faculty and students from the university's other colleges, help improve the law school's ranking and attract top students and faculty.
That plan was strongly opposed by Carlisle officials, and several state lawmakers and law school alumni, who said moving the school to University Park would harm the economy of Carlisle, the school's home for 170 years.
The board was scheduled to vote on relocation June 12, but instead was presented with the two-campus proposal and opted instead to consider that plan.
If the board approves the dual-campus proposal Friday, Penn State's board of trustees will vote on the plan Sept. 10.
"It certainly gives Dickinson Law School the opportunity to enjoy the strengths and benefits of its long traditions in Carlisle and the new opportunities for education at University Park," Zimmerman said. In addition, he said one of the issues that has been under discussion is whether the agreement would require that the law school always stay in Carlisle.
When Penn State and Dickinson merged, the agreement said the school would stay in Carlisle in perpetuity, Zimmerman said. He said the university wants the board to give that up, but the board is "not inclined" to do that.