Friday, November 21, 2003

PA Governor Gets Into the Act.

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Friday, November 21, 2003

A Section

Rendell tries to save law school ; Lawmakers join in pushing Spanier to back Carlisle site

Of The Patriot-News

The board of The Dickinson School of Law held preliminary discussions last month about expanding the school in Carlisle. But Gov. Ed Rendell says insufficient consideration has been given to the potential for that expansion.I'm feeling very good about it. I don't think [the move is] going to happen.State Rep. Jerry Nailor, R-Mechanicsburg Gov. Ed Rendell and state lawmakers said yesterday that talk of moving The Dickinson School of Law has injured the school's reputation and threatens to damage Pennsylvania State University's name.

In a letter signed by Rendell, they demanded that Penn State President Graham Spanier publicly state his support for keeping the law school in Carlisle instead of building a new home in University Park for a proposed $60 million.

"Of the many substantial and legitimate concerns that have surfaced over the past week, the biggest concern is that it does not appear sufficient consideration has been given to the potential for improving and expanding the current site or to the cost effectiveness of doing so," the letter stated.

Also signing the letter were: state Sens. Hal Mowery, R- Cumberland; Senate President Pro Tem Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Blair; Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin; Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Thompson, R-Chester; and state Reps. William Gabig, R- Carlisle, Jerry Nailor, R-Mechanicsburg, Bruce Smith, R-Dillsburg, Patricia Vance, R-Silver Spring Twp., and Jeffrey Coy, D-Shippensburg.

Mowery, Vance and Nailor met with Spanier and two other university administrators Saturday about the proposed move, Nailor said last night.

"I'm feeling very good about it. I don't think [the move is] going to happen," he said.

Spanier said last night that he hadn't seen the letter and wouldn't respond to Rendell's charges until he had a chance to talk with the governor and meet with the law school's board of governors tonight. The board is to meet again tomorrow on the proposal.

"As a Republican, I have to say I actually agree with Governor Rendell," said Robert Michaels, a second-year law student who is president of the student Republican Council.

"There's a lot of people around here absolutely sickened about this," he said.

Carlisle Mayor Kirk Wilson said signatures from lawmakers who have a say in Penn State funding could sway Spanier.

"The president by now is smart enough to understand that to ignore their request places future funding for the university in question," Wilson said.

LeRoy Zimmerman, chairman of the law school board, said meetings today and tomorrow on the proposed move would be closed, but a Commonwealth Court hearing today may open the proceedings to the public. The Patriot-News and The Sentinel of Carlisle requested the hearing, saying a closed meeting would violate the state's open- records law.

Law school Dean Philip McConnaughay said yesterday that he had seen Rendell's letter, but he refused to elaborate on the proposal to move the school.

"I am committed ... to keeping this law school as great as it has always been and helping it to be as great as it can be, whether here in Carlisle or in another location," he said.

He cited a recent leap in Dickinson's admissions and its success at adding diversity to its staff and student body as signs that the school is "experiencing a renewal in stature."

The law school board held preliminary discussions last month about expanding the school in Carlisle. But Rendell stated in his letter that insufficient consideration has been given to the potential for a local expansion.

"I don't see how [moving] could be our last option. I'm glad that the governor feels the same way," Michaels said.

"I am confident that after we have an opportunity to sit down with the administration of the law school that we can find a way to not just keep the law school in Carlisle but to meet the objectives for improvement of the facility," Borough Council President Steve Fishman said. "I firmly believe we can keep them there and achieve that objective if we work together."

 Staff writer Dan Miller contributed to this report.

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