A lawsuit that seeks to block Penn State's plan to open a Dickinson Law campus in State College won't keep the university from meeting its two-campus goal, university officials said. In a statement released yesterday, the university said the suit was worthless.
"The lawsuit -- which we believe to have no merit -- will not weaken our resolve to provide outstanding educational opportunities in Carlisle and at University Park for our current and future students," the statement said.
Penn State; its president, Graham Spanier; the law school's dean, Philip McConnaughay; the school's board of governors; and board Chairman H. Laddie Montague Jr. are named in the suit filed by three members of the governors board: G. Thomas Miller, Leslie Anne Miller and Tom Monteverde.
The Millers and Monteverde have asked the court to halt plans to open a second campus of The Dickinson School of Law until a hearing can be held.
They also asked the court to force Spanier and McConnaughay to reveal how long they plan to operate the Carlisle campus.
The three plaintiffs voted against a second campus when the board of governors last month approved the plan, 17-14.
Penn State and Gov. Ed Rendell are negotiating conditions for a $25 million matching grant for the Carlisle renovations. During a visit to Carlisle, Rendell this week said he is seeking to force Penn State to keep the law school in Carlisle for at least 15 years.
Rendell said he is pushing for an arrangement that would ensure the law school reverts to Carlisle control should Penn State sever its tie to the school.
The current board of governors was formed when Penn State and Dickinson merged in 2000. The board was formed to hold Penn State to its promise to keep the school in Carlisle. The university now plans a $60 million law campus in State College and a $40 million to $50 million renovation of the Carlisle campus. Penn State pledged a $10 million contribution toward renovations.
The Millers and Monteverde contend Penn State has used its financial power to coerce the board into accepting the two-campus plan.
"Penn State placed the board in an untenable and unfair position completely inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the merger agreement and prevented the board from making a free and unfettered decision based solely on the relative educational merits of keeping the law school in Carlisle exclusively, moving it to another location, or allowing a second campus to be created," their suit said.
They also claim Penn State violated its merger agreement with the law school by approaching Dickinson College about taking over the law school. The college is next to but not affiliated with the law school.
Penn State called the lawsuit an attempt to "thwart the efforts of their colleagues and the university to enhance the stature of The Dickinson School of Law."
The three plaintiffs said Penn State has never produced evidence that supports its claim that a State College presence will help it draw students with higher scores and boost the school in national rankings.
They are asking the court to force Spanier and McConnaughay to deliver that evidence by Feb. 13. Staff writer Dan Miller contributed to this report. INFOBOX:
THE STORY SO FAR
* The Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle merged with Penn State University in 2000.
* In 2003, Penn State proposed moving the school to its main campus in State College. Law school Dean Philip McConnaughay contends closer interaction with the university would enhance students' education and job prospects and improve the school's rankings.
* Penn State withdrew the proposal after objections from the governors board, lawmakers and the community.
* The law school board and PSU trustees last month approved preliminary plans for two campuses. The board and trustees expect to vote on a final two-campus plan by this summer.