By Anne Danahy Penn State President Graham Spanier said he hopes to move quickly to plan and raise money for renovations of The Dickinson School of Law's Carlisle campus and may simultaneously lay plans for a law school campus at University Park.
A memorandum of understanding that outlines plans for a $40 million renovation of the Carlisle campus and construction of a law school campus at University Park will be presented to the university's board of trustees Friday.
The Dickinson School of Law board of governors voted 17-14 to approve the memorandum Saturday.
Spanier said in an e-mail Monday that the university hopes to "move expeditiously" on the project.
He said six months of private fund-raising will be followed by program planning, architectural selection and renovations and additions at Carlisle. Plans for the law school campus at University Park could take place at the same time or shortly after.
University officials last year said they would spend $60 million to build the University Park location.
"I believe this will become one of the single largest investments in a law school in the history of American higher education, and I pledge the best efforts of Penn State's administration to create long-term success for the decades ahead in Carlisle and University Park," Spanier said in a letter to members of the board of governors.
The agreement follows more than a year of controversy and discussion of proposals to create a Dickinson School of Law campus at University Park. The idea had met opposition from members of the board of governors and in the Carlisle community.
The community, home to the law school since 1834, feared Penn State would close the Carlisle campus, or it would be reduced in status to a satellite campus, hurting the local economy.
Penn State argued that locating a campus at University Park, where law school students would benefit from interaction with other colleges, would help attract top-flight students and faculty.
Carlisle Mayor Kirk Wilson said he tries to be an optimist. So while he is disappointed in the law school board's approval of the agreement, he said he is willing to work with the university to ensure the continued operation of the school in Carlisle.
"Obviously our desire would be to see the university place a strong emphasis on the campus in Carlisle and return it to the educational institution it once was," Wilson said.
The memorandum of understanding specifies that Penn State will continue operating the Carlisle campus at least until June 30, 2015.
The agreement also would dissolve the law school's board of governors, replacing it with a seven-member panel that would include three members appointed by Spanier.
The university has pledged $10 million toward as much as $40 million in renovations to the Carlisle campus. As much as $25 million would come from the state and $5 million from private fund-raising.
Gov. Ed Rendell earlier this year pledged $25 million in state funding if Penn State agreed to keep a campus in Carlisle. Any state funding would be administered by the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority, which is expected to meet in the next few weeks.