Monday, May 10, 2004

What About Penn State - Harrisburg? (A reasonable compromise if you ask me.)

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Monday, May 10, 2004


Consider area PSU campus for law school


Before the door is closed on the question of the location of the Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University a better choice is worthy of consideration. However, this proposal involves another segment of the university, Penn State Harrisburg. That affiliation has remained in my mind since becoming the first professor at that campus in 1966 and, subsequently, Dean of Faculty. Back in 1967 Edgar R. Casper, a deputy attorney general of the commonwealth. came to me with a proposal for the Dickinson School of Law to offer Continuing Education courses on our campus for lawyers of Central Pennsylvania. Despite the support of Dean Heindel the administration at University Park declined. Bryce Jordan, who came to Penn State later from an upper division college like Penn State Harrisburg, looked favorably upon the development of legal education collaboration with the Middletown campus. Unfortunately, those plans never came to fruition.

By the time the Law School affiliated with Penn State in 1997 and fully merged in 2000 with assurances of retaining its location in Carlisle the earlier proposals were long forgotten. In the interim, Duquesne and Weidner jumped in to fill the void.

Forgotten was the fact that the Dickinson School of Law, founded in 1834, was the oldest law school in the commonwealth and the fifth oldest in the nation. In fact, it preceded Penn State by 21 years. Certified for almost 75 years it has become the heart of legal education in Central Pennsylvania just as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh in the east and west. Moving it to University Park will be detrimental to the community as well as forfeiting the advantages of the South Pennsylvania region. Furthermore, it will be a contradiction of the earlier commitment to keep the Law School in Carlisle.

The better choice is to maintain the core campus in Carlisle and develop a branch on the vast 250-some acres of Penn State Harrisburg in Middletown. The advantages are obvious and logical. In the first place, it is only about a half-hour from Carlisle. Keep in mind the light rail concept of a commuter line between Carlisle and Lancaster that will facilitate such development.

Also, Penn State Harrisburg is located across the street from Harrisburg International Airport with ease for conferences and bringing in specialists in the field. It will certainly enhance the communication and operation of the already existing summer overseas programs, the masters program for foreign lawyers, the London Semester program, as well as the co-sponsorship of an international symposium on economic crime.
Hershey Medical Center is in reasonably close proximity with additional potential for much-needed combined legal programs. Location and costs are justification for such a development. Despite the merits of technology, student and professor at opposite ends of the log provide the best learning atmosphere.

In addition, Penn State Harrisburg's excellent programs in business, technology, education and public administration provide available opportunities for specialization. Besides, law offices in the Harrisburg region and the Capitol Complex itself offer interning and related openings that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the state. The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in the Capitol with its headquarters for appellate court offices will provide a magnificent opportunity for observation and learning.THE LAW SCHOOL and the University's College of Agricultural Sciences have already collaborated on an Agricultural Law Research and Education Center located in Carlisle. Technological capabilities can enhance and encourage further program development but they cannot improve upon the face-to-face contact that is possible locally.

Space for expansion, programs for development, and faculty for implementation are ready for such a bold and innovative move. This is not a new idea and any examination of the research production and outstanding record of the excellent faculty at Penn State Harrisburg will demonstrate why it has become a significant part of the university's prestige.

The opportunity for Penn State to exercise its potential as a regional entity exists. Relocation to University Park is not the answer for Penn State, the Dickinson School of Law or the Carlisle community. Penn State Harrisburg is a better choice with all the advantages of location. After all is said and done, it will still be the Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University. GEORGE D. WOLF is emeritus professor of American studies at Penn State Harrisburg.

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