The message out of the first public meeting of The Dickinson School of Law's board of governors was clear: Carlisle would be the loser if a proposed two-campus law school failed. The proposal calls for Penn State University to build a $60 million law facility in State College and spend $10 million toward a $25 million upgrade of the law school's Carlisle campus.
Regardless of the success or failure of the two-campus arrangement, the Dickinson board would lose its power over the law school.
Those terms were quickly rejected yesterday by most of the eight board members in a committee meeting to discuss Penn State's proposal.
"We wouldn't be here today but for that [power]. Without it, anything could have happened and this little board couldn't have said anything against it," board member Arthur Piccone said.
Board Chairman LeRoy Zimmerman said the board will continue to negotiate with university officials. The full, 35-member board expects to vote on Penn State's proposal before Aug. 15. Zimmerman said the board will not give up its right to keep a law school in Carlisle.
Penn State's lawyer, Wendell Courtney, and senior vice president for finance and business, Gary Schultz, said Penn State trustees want the right to close the Carlisle campus or return it to the board of governors.
?We want to give this every opportunity to succeed. We hope we never have to get to this provision, forever. What if something dire happens??? Courtney said.
"Why do we even have to anticipate that? You've just got to make it work," board member Hubert X. Gilroy said. He said Penn State promised to keep the school in Carlisle when it merged with Dickinson in 2000.
Penn State first suggested relocating Dickinson to State College but withdrew that offer in June and proposed operating a law school with two campuses. The PSU law facility would open in 2008.
Some board members said the proposal appears to favor the success of a State College law school campus over a Carlisle campus.
Board member Leslie Anne Miller said the plan doesn't address what would happen if a State College law campus failed to do well.
Board member Jason Kutulakis said Penn State risks little if the two-campus plan fails. State College would have its law-school facility and, he said, "they've used [Dickinson] to get accreditation and a building."
Kutulakis said Penn State hasn't proven that a dual campus will improve education.
Supporters of a move to the large research university have contended it would improve academic offerings for law students and boost Dickinson's rankings.
Yesterday's discussion came during the first governor's board meeting opened to the public under an amendment to the state Sunshine Act, introduced by Sen. Harold Mowery, R-Cumberland.
The public had been banned from board meetings.
The Patriot-News and The Sentinel of Carlisle had tried to force open board meetings and won their case in Cumberland County Court. Commonwealth Court overturned the decision in April, but the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the newspapers' appeal of the Commonwealth Court ruling.