Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Penn State spells out its offer to law school - and suddenly changes tracks

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Penn State spells out its offer to law school ; Board is told it would get $63 million-plus to move, only $10 million if it stays

Of Our Carlisle Bureau

Penn State hopes to lure The Dickinson School of Law to University Park with a new $60 million facility. If the school decides to stay in Carlisle, Penn State will provide only $10 million for building improvements.

The law school's board of governors will vote on the offers June 11 and 12.

Penn State President Graham Spanier put the official offers on the table Monday, emphasizing the financial incentives behind a move to the main campus.

In addition, if Dickinson moves to University Park, Penn State would spend $1 million a year to hire five or more faculty and $2 million a year on operating costs. Penn State also would pick up the cost for 10 years to operate a secondary government law center in the Carlisle facility.

Spanier and other university administrators say the Carlisle campus has less to offer law students. "The educational advantages of ... [being in University Park] for DSL's future law students overwhelmingly indicate the potential of restoring and enhancing the national stature of the law school, while the risks of the law school remaining a stand-alone campus [in Carlisle] are significant," Spanier wrote.

But law school board member Jason Kutulakis called Spanier's reasoning absurd. Kutulakis said he doesn't believe that academic advantages of studying in State College would make up for the loss of law internships at midstate county, state and federal law offices.

"The synergies that are of the utmost importance to our law school for 170 years are between the [midstate] bench, the bar and the students," Kutulakis said. "It's unfortunate that President Spanier is using this golden carrot to skew this decision. I'm insulted by the disparity in offers. The university has a fiduciary duty to support our law school despite its location."

Kutulakis said the law school drew a record number of applications for the 2004-05 year. Dickinson students ranked first in passing the state bar exam, he said.

However, Rodney A. Erickson, Penn State vice president and provost, said it's unlikely a campus in Carlisle would be able to continue to draw top applicants and find top jobs for graduates.

He also said Dickinson risks harming its reputation if it doesn't move, because national law school leaders believe the move would be beneficial to the law school.

Some board members said Penn State never mentioned concerns about Dickinson's stature when the schools announced a merger in 1997.

"It's just one side of the negotiating table trying to present as many enticements as it can," Robert M. Frey said of Monday's official offer.

Frey, an emeritus member of the law school board, said Penn State's arguments don't address the harm that could come if Dickinson moves and loses its reputation as a school that provides personal attention to students in a relatively distraction-free setting.
Law school Dean Philip McConnaughay has said Dickinson's national rankings would improve in University Park, given opportunities for extended credits and specialized studies.

The board had asked Spanier to outline the university's specific financial commitments in order for it to determine the feasibility of renovating Trickett Hall or building elsewhere in Carlisle.

Government and business leaders told the board last week that local and state contributions for a Carlisle expansion could total $32 million. That includes $25 million that Gov. Ed Rendell has pledged from the state capital budget fund. Donations from law school alumni and friends could also be tapped.

"Now we've demonstrated we can [pay for expansion] in Carlisle with reasonable aid from State College and now [Penn State's] arguments are changing," said Hubert X. Gilroy, a law school board member.


PHOTO; PHOTOS BY DAN GLEITER; Caption: Robert M. Frey, an emeritus member of the board of The Dickinson School of Law, says Penn State doesn't address the harm of moving the law school and changing its reputation for personal attention to students.; Jason Kutulakis of the law school's board says he doesn't believe that academic advantages of studying at Penn State would make up for the loss of law internships in the midstate.

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