No one expected the group touring Penn State University yesterday to commit to going there, after all it was only an informational tour. But there was more in the balance than where to earn a degree. Instead the future of a college was at stake.
The board of governors of The Dickinson School of Law saw first hand where the school could possibly be relocated, if they decide to move from Carlisle to the Penn State University campus.
They also saw the type of building that could be constructed for the $60 million university officials have promised if the board of governors approves a move.
The board took no action on the possible move during its two-day session in State College.
"I think what we saw today was Penn State's advocacy for the move," said LeRoy S. Zimmerman, chairman of the board of governors. "We knew we were going to get the university's story and that's what we got."
Zimmerman and about 22 of the Dickinson board's 36 members were shown four locations around the Penn State campus yesterday where the school could be located. Penn State President Graham Spanier and members of the university's facilities management team gave the tour.
The board also toured the $58 million, 215,000- square-foot Information Sciences and Technology Building, the college's most recently completed building that opened this year.
Spanier touted the building as an example of the facilities the law school would have, adding that a new building would rival the law school facilities available at other Big Ten institutions.
Trickett Hall, the law school's home in Carlisle is about 160,000 square feet.
Spanier called the tour a ?familiarization?? for the Dickinson board to the facilities available at the university.
?We didn't say anything new during the tour. The board has heard all of this before,?? Spanier said. ?This just provides a basis when we discuss the concepts.??
Board members said the tour would be helpful to them as they make their final decision on a possible move.
"Any decision we make is going to impact the law school for years," said Jason Kutulakis, a Carlisle attorney. "These discussions should be viewed as a positive thing no matter what happens."
Three of the four possible sites for a law school are within view of Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center, including two sites in Innovation Park, the university's business incubator across from the stadium.
Spanier said moving the law school to State College would also help integrate the school with other programs and curriculum that Penn State offers, such as business, environmental sciences and technology.
What impact the university's presentation had on the board of governors, if any, remains to be seen.
Zimmerman said he is waiting to see what can be done with Trickett Hall or another location in the Carlisle area for the type of money Spanier was talking about spending for a new building.
"I keep wondering if similar things can be done in Carlisle," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said he has been told Trickett could be expanded or the university could buy and renovate the Carlisle Hospital, about three blocks down the street from the law school, after the hospital completes construction on a facility in South Middleton Twp.
Spanier said there was a plan to renovate the law school's facilities in Carlisle if the move is voted down but said he didn't know how much would be spent.
The two colleges merged in 1997 with officials from both schools vowing the law school would remain in Carlisle. The law school is not affiliated with Dickinson College.
When law school officials said in November that they were considering an offer from Penn State to move the college to State College, they pointed to cramped classrooms at the law school and its boxed-in campus in Carlisle.
Carlisle community leaders and supporters of the law school said they would fight plans to move the institution. Students and alumni said moving the school would rob would-be lawyers of real-life classrooms in the midstate's many courtrooms and law offices.
Law school Dean Phillip J. McConnaughay cited a need to expand and concerns about the law school's resulting ?languishing reputation?? as other reasons for the move in a memo last fall.
The law school received a third-tier ranking in the annual survey of colleges and graduate schools by U.S. News & World Report magazine.
The memo also mentioned university officials have had difficulty raising enough money to finance an expansion at the Carlisle campus. A six-year campaign to raise $16 million "yielded only $9 million in cash," said McConnaughay, who said he did not want to finance the expansion by increasing tuition, which is $24,300 a year.
Zimmerman said yesterday that he was told Penn State officials would support a decision to stay in Carlisle if that's what the board chose to do.
The board next meeting is May 14, the night before graduation, Zimmerman said. No decision is expected at that meeting.
Zimmerman said there is no timetable on a possible vote, but he hopes for a final decision "sooner rather than later."