Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Penn State law school panel lacks consensus on two-campus proposal

Centre Daily Times (KRTBN)
Copyright (C) 2004 KRTBN Knight Ridder Tribune Business News

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Penn State law school panel lacks consensus on two-campus proposal

By Anne Danahy, Centre Daily Times, State College, Pa.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Aug. 10--HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A decision on whether Penn State's Dickinson School of Law should be expanded to two locations might not be made this week after all. Concerned about the possibility of losing control of the Dickinson School of Law's Carlisle campus in the future, a committee charged with looking into a two-campus plan voted Monday to recommend that the school's board of governors continue studying the idea.

That board is scheduled to meet Friday to vote on a proposal to make Dickinson a dual-campus school by adding a campus at University Park to the existing campus in Carlisle.

Committee members, who are all members of the board of governors, said that while some could see benefits in the idea of a two-campus school, there is a lack of consensus with Penn State on parts of the agreement.

A key concern is language that would allow Penn State to "hand back" the Carlisle campus if, at some point after 10 years of operation, the location was found to have irresolvable problems. A "hand back" would essentially end the Penn State and Dickinson relationship. It would occur if the university wanted to close the Carlisle campus and the board of governors did not.

University representatives said that they do not think that would happen and that it would only be a last resort if other steps to resolve any problems were unsuccessful.

Leslie Anne Miller, who cast the only "no" vote, said the resolution presupposes agreement on the concept of a dual campus. She is also concerned that the resolution the committee voted on states that the two campuses would be "comparable," which she noted, is different than being equal.

Funding is also a source of disagreement. Jack Stover, the board of governor's attorney, said the law school committee wants to ensure construction of comparable facilities at the campuses, with construction at University Park not starting until the funding for Carlisle has been secured.

University representatives said there is no expectation of closing a campus in the future.

The board of governors was originally considering a plan to move the law school to University Park, leaving a satellite campus in Carlisle. The Carlisle campus is in need of upgrades and expansion, and Penn State officials argued that a move to University Park would improve the law school's rankings and help attract top-drawer students and faculty.

That move, however, was fiercely opposed by the Carlisle community that has been home to the law school for 170 years, and it was shelved in June when the dual-campus concept was proposed.

"We're hopeful that in the end you'll say, 'yes,"' Wendell Courtney, the university's attorney, told the committee members.

He said if there were problems, such as faculty or student recruitment, the university would work with the law school to fix them. But, he said, given the investment the university would be making, "the board of trustees must have the flexibility to operate the law school as it does with every other college."

William Caroselli, committee member, and others at the meeting said despite disagreements, the negotiations have been friendly.

Regardless of Friday's decision, he hopes there will be continuing discussions, he said.

He and others also pointed to the short amount of time the two sides have had in which to reach agreement.

"There's tremendous potential benefits to be derived" from the plan, said LeRoy Zimmerman, chairman of the board. But, he said, the language concerns did not arise until June.

The committee also heard from representatives of the law school's General Alumni Association, who spoke against the proposal.

"It's putting the cart before the horse to negotiate terms before you have every questioned answered," said Luci Jankowski McClure, president of the association, during a break in the meeting. She said that includes questions such as whether there is a demand for another law school location.

The association surveyed its members and came out against the proposal. McClure said after the committee's vote that she was "somewhat comforted" by the proposal for further study of two campuses, but she thinks the first question should be whether another campus is needed.

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