The future home of The Dickinson School of Law won't be decided this weekend. Penn State University President Graham Spanier made that clear after spending three hours with Dickinson's board of governors in historic Trickett Hall.
As university police stood guard, 30 members of the 37-person board met for the first of two closed-door meetings to weigh a Penn State proposal to build a $60 million facility in State College and move the law school there. Officials say the Carlisle campus is cramped and facilities are outmoded.
Spanier said the board won't vote on the proposal during the weekend meetings and it was unclear how soon a vote could take place.
He said board members asked him how discussions about a move got started. They discussed setting guidelines that would be followed in the case of further talks on moving the school out of Carlisle, he said.
Some board members have apparently made up their minds about Dickinson leaving Carlisle.
"I have a perception that a substantial number of the board members will be speaking in opposition to moving the law school out of the Carlisle area," said board member G. Thomas Miller before the meeting, adding he does not support a move.
There has also been pressure from state and local leaders to dismiss the plan.
Gov. Ed Rendell and state lawmakers on Thursday signed a letter written by Sen. Hal Mowery, R-Cumberland, that urged Spanier to keep the school in Carlisle. State Rep. Jerry Nailor, R-Mechanicsburg, who signed, said he got many positive comments.
However, Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, yesterday wrote Rendell saying the governor and legislators don't know what's best for the law school, and their letter derailed a fair debate over the school's future.
"The letter, in which you demand a clear statement from [Spanier] supporting the presence of the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, stinks of a threat, veiled or otherwise to Penn State's appropriations," Corman wrote.
Nailor said Corman is looking out for his constituents. PSU is in Centre County.
Spanier said last night that Rendell will be involved in a final decision on the law school.
Those fighting to keep Dickinson in Carlisle cite negative economic, educational and cultural effects if the school leaves.
Details about the move proposal were laid out in a confidential memo that law school Dean Philip McConnaughay sent the board. The memo was leaked to the press last week. Law school administrators said details of the proposal should not have been made public until the board could consider them.
However, Mowery said the leak has given the midstate a chance to fight the idea. Otherwise, a move ?could have been made with no input,?? he said.
Miller said alumni and other lawyers associated with Dickinson have called the board to say they oppose the move. He said the board will begin candid discussion on the idea at today's meeting.
Yesterday, a judge ruled against a request by The Patriot-News to open the board's talks.
In an essay posted on the law school's Web site ( www.dsl.psu.edu/ about/mergeressay.pdf), McConnaughay addresses the advantages of housing a law school at a research university. He said the setting allows students to earn joint degrees and be exposed to experts in other fields.
He said major trends in law require graduates to have diverse experiences and understand the interaction between law and science.
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THE SCHOOL *Number of students: 650 *Graduates include five governors, three U.S. senators, Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge, and more than 100 state, federal and county judges *Employs about 50 faculty and 30 adjunct professors *Founded in 1834. Oldest law school in Pennsylvania *Merged with Penn State in 2000