CARLISLE The dean of Penn State'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," it was reported Wednesday.
The Sentinel of Carlisle based its report on a confidential memo written by Dickinson School of Law Dean Philip McConnaughay in preparation for a meeting of the school's board of governors on Nov. 21-22.
The law school, which merged with Penn State in 2000, received a third-tier ranking in annual survey of colleges and graduate schools compiled by U.S. News & World Report.
McConnaughay responded to the report with a short statement Wednesday afternoon.
"The advice that I provide about Law School matters to the president and provost of the university about the law school's board of governors is confidential," McConnaughay wrote. "It is not appropriate for me to comment about its contents until after university officials and the board have had the opportunity to deliberate and set policy in the best interests of the law school and its students, graduates, faculty and staff."
A total of 646 students were enrolled in the law school at the beginning of the fall semester.
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 $24,300 a year.
Penn State spokesman Steve MacCarthy said the university would welcome the law school at University Park.
MacCarthy said it is very clear that the existing facilities at Dickinson are inadequate. The problem is that the school is landlocked and has no place to grow, he said.
"They're in a situation where they don't have a lot of options at the existing site," MacCarthy said.
The existing campus lacks adequate classrooms, faculty offices, library space, student areas, courtrooms, an auditorium and electrical power to support basic programs and technology, McConnaughay 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.
MacCarthy said the decision to move ultimately rests with the board of governors at the law school.
LeRoy S. Zimmerman, chairman of the board of governors, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.
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 become independent from the college in 1890.