Sunday, March 08, 2009

What sets the real DSL apart?

March 07, 2009 12:00 am  •  

For Joel Nori, passing the bar means staying focused on the books instead of walking to the next venue to socialize.
Given the choice, the South Newton Township man went with Carlisle instead of State College when he applied to the Dickinson School of Law back in 2006.
Nori, 26, said the party scene of Penn State’s main campus and the surrounding college town held way too many distractions for him.
He knew going into the first year of law school can be especially tough on students who, between class and study time, can expect to spend up to 10 hours per day on studies.
It is not unusual for law professors to assign hundreds of pages of material per week just so the first-year student can be ready for class discussion, Nori explained.
“With the competitive grading system, everybody wants to look good,” Nori said. Law professors are notorious for their tendency to “cold call” random students in class, he added.
“You have to be prepared,” Nori said. “Given the nature of law school, there was no way I could effectively do it in State College.”
Students choose
The dual-campus concept, in effect at Dickinson School of Law, gives students the ability to choose which campus they want to attend.
Ultimately, it is a personal preference, but there is worry over whether Carlisle can continue to draw qualified applicants when the alternative is Penn State’s main campus.
In the 2003-04 school year, DSL had 639 students, said Kelly Rimmer, director of marketing and communications for DSL. This year, the law school enrolled 574 students – 318 of whom are taking classes in Carlisle.
While the drop is precipitous, Rimmer said the school predicted these enrollment numbers when the dual-campus idea was approved.
“This is playing out exactly as we predicted,” she said.
Now a third-year law student, Nori is getting ready to graduate in May. He said there is concern among current students that Penn State may be slowly phasing out Carlisle.
“If that concern is unfounded, that would be fantastic,” Nori said.
At Carlisle, Nori’s perception is that the majority of first-year students seem to be those who worked for a few years after college before entering law school. As a result, he added, these students seem to be older.
Meanwhile, the majority of first-year students going directly from college to law school seem to favor the main campus, Nori said.
Nori was among the first students to enroll under the dual-campus configuration. While, at first, there were technical problems linking Carlisle to State College, those problems have been resolved and the system is working well, Nori said.
Penn State put a lot of money into the teleconferencing system that interconnects the classrooms of both campuses, he added. The university is supposed to put similar technology into its Trickett Hall site.
Nori draws hope from the investment Penn State has made in renovating and expanding the traditional campus of Dickinson School of Law. That project is underway and expected to be ready for classes by January 2010.
“I hope they just don’t close the Carlisle campus, because it does so much good for the community,” Nori said. He noted how the campus tax assistance office helped more than 500 needy people prepare their tax returns.
Well established
Local lawyer James D. Flower Jr., a DSL graduate, also mentioned how Carlisle has well-developed and established clinics in such areas as family law and children advocacy.
The Carlisle campus also has close ties to state government and many large law firms based in Harrisburg, he added.
“If a law student wants to be out there in the world, they can do that from this campus,” he said. “There would be many fewer opportunities at State College and Centre County.”
Attorney Victor Stabile also graduated from the Dickinson School of Law. He said that Carlisle’s proximity to all three branches of state government offers opportunities that cannot be replicated at State College.
Stabile disagreed with the perception that State College can offer Dickinson law students greater specialization through joint degrees due to the large number of academic colleges present on main campus.
“I have been practicing law for 26 years,” he said. “It is my opinion that three years of law school is barely enough time to prepare someone to practice law. Specialization in various fields is no substitute for the traditional core curriculum.”
Stabile said law students should focus most of their attention on learning the fundamental principles of law, because those core concepts form the basis of everything attorneys do — whether they are a generalist or a specialist.
“There is no way you can get away from the rules of evidence, for example,” Stabile said.
He explained how even drafting a contract involves analyzing any evidence that could be admissible from the document should a dispute arise.

That Dean pretends Dual campus concept helps Carlisle

March 07, 2009 12:00 am  •  

Penn State expects a smaller-scale operation for the Dickinson School of Law, but one “equally esteemed and equally vibrant” to the dual campus in State College, Dean Philip McConnaughay said last week.
He called any prediction of an eventual phasing out of the Carlisle campus baseless speculation, adding that such “unsupported, unfounded gossip by people who do not know” only serves to hurt the law school.
Based on what it knows of the typical law student, Penn State predicts more applicants will chose to attend the Lewis Katz building at University Park instead of a renovated and expanded Trickett Hall campus, McConnaughay said.
Penn State expects the numbers to stabilize over the next few years, he added, to 60 to 65 percent of the student body at State College compared to 35 to 40 percent at Carlisle.
That said, McConnaughay made it clear the dual-campus concept is not intended to be a competition between two campuses, but a unified law school with two locations linked together by state-of-the-art technology.
In January 2006, a trustee asked McConnaughay what officials would do if students seem to favor one campus location over the other. At that time, the dean said he hoped to avoid a disproportionate demand at either location.
“My prediction is that our school will be so attractive … that we’ll have ample demand,” McConnaughay told the board of trustees then.
During a phone interview last week, McConnaughay said the number of overall applicants for the 2009-10 academic year is already at 3,500 — an historic high for Dickinson School of Law.
“We’ve experienced a 40 to 50 percent increase in applications this year over last year,” McConnaughay said. “Over the last five years, there has been a 150 percent increase in applications.”
The dual campus is driven by student demand, the dean explained. So far, more applicants have expressed a preference for State College, but should that change, Penn State will adjust accordingly, McConnaughay said.
Dollar figures are an indication of a trend towards State College. In its 2008-09 operating budget, Penn State projected about $9 million in tuition revenue for its University Park law school campus. This is up from about $5.8 million in 2007-08.
Meanwhile, tuition revenue at the Carlisle law school campus went from $13.2 million in 2007-08 to $11.5 million projected for the current fiscal year. Penn State budget figures are available online
McConnaughay said the changing dollar figures reflect the shift in student body ratio Penn State had anticipated for both locations.
“This is exactly what we expected,” the dean said. “It is a good outcome.”
The association with Penn State’s main campus has increased the ability of Dickinson School of Law to attract more qualified applicants and top-notch, world-renowned professors, he said.
“We are a far stronger law school today than we were years ago,” McConnaughay said. “The Penn State flagship campus at University Park strengthens the programs in Carlisle. It has been very fruitful.”
On Dec. 12, 2008, the American Bar Association fully approved Dickinson School of Law as the only accredited dual campus law school in the United States, McConnaughay said.
The ABA has designated Dickinson School of Law its pilot site for a project assessing how distance learning could be used effectively in legal education, he added. Penn State has installed an advanced telecommunications systems linking students at both campuses.
“Students who attend Dickinson School of Law have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the education we offer on an equal basis regardless of the campus they attend,” McConnaughay said.
McConnaughay explained how the first year is entirely residential, with law students attending one campus or the other. All the instruction is done entirely in person and the focus is on fundamentals of law.
During the second and third years, students are free to transfer between the classes and enroll in classes that originate from either venue, based on where the professor for that course is located, McConnaughay said, adding: “Our Carlisle campus is an exceptionally vital and attractive place.”
Aside from its long-standing legal clinics and proximity to Harrisburg, the Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle will play an important role in a new School of International Affairs being established by Penn State, McConnaughay said.
The university is currently in talks with Dickinson College and the U.S. Army War College to share resources and begin offering graduate-level courses in international affairs at the Carlisle campus.
Both alumni and McConnaughay mentioned how the Carlisle law school campus provides students greater access to opportunities in state government agencies than the State College law school campus.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Trickett Hall ahead of schedule

I guess it's pretty easy to stay on schedule when you're just ripping the guts out of an historic building.

March 07, 2009 12:00 am  •  

Work is ahead of schedule on the project to expand and renovate the Trickett Hall campus of the Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, Dean Philip McConnaughay said last week.
Penn State is expecting substantial completion of the revamped campus by October or November, he said, but the university still plans to wait until December to move its operation from the former Advantica building in Middlesex Township.
That is to avoid disrupting classes during the fall semester, McConnaughay said. Classes at the Trickett Hall campus are expected to begin in January 2010, the start of the spring semester.
“We are not confronting any difficulties,” the dean added. “The weather has been in our favor.”
The $50 million project started with the demolition of the 1963 and 1978 additions to Trickett Hall along with “the curtilage,” a collection of small brick buildings on South College Street that once served as faculty offices.
Planned for the area between Trickett Hall and the 1985 addition, Lewis Katz Hall will house three large classrooms, a courtyard, a commons area and a 200-seat courtroom/auditorium.
Trickett Hall, meanwhile, will be renovated to house the H. Laddie Montague Jr. Law Library and a legislative hearing room.
Kelly Rimmer, director of marketing and communications for the law school, said interior work on the buildings is staggered so one type of crew can move along and not be in the way of others.
“Electricians go first and move to the next location, drywall crews work a room next, and so on,” she said. “The 1985 addition is getting its interior work done first, followed by Trickett Hall and, finally, the Lewis Katz Hall.”
The 1985 addition will be renovated to house faculty and administrative offices, a cafe and rooms for seminars and interviews, Rimmer said. Electrical and drywall crews are working on the ground floor and basement levels.
Work is underway to install new heating and cooling systems, framing for fascia and rudiments of the frames that will hold the glass curtain walls in place.
Meanwhile, at Trickett Hall, crews have cleaned and serviced the boilers, which will be reused in the new heating system, which conveys steam heat through the floors of the facility, Rimmer said.
The corner of the building that collapsed in November has been reconstructed to insulate the building from the weather and to permit interior work to proceed, she added. Exterior masonry work continues along with repairs to the roof.

Can Carlisle compete?

The point is....Carlisle shouldn't have to compete.  Carlisle is where Penn State PROMISED the Dickinson School of Law of Penn State University would remain forever.  First they broke the promise about the name  (it is NOT Penn State University Dickinson School of Law), and then they broke the promise about location.  They basically lied to STEAL DSL's accreditation.  It was the plan from day one.

March 07, 2009 12:00 am  •  

The jury is still out among alumni on what a dual campus could mean for the future of a Dickinson School of Law presence in Carlisle.
Those interviewed were cautiously optimistic that Penn State would follow through on its promise to maintain a viable law school both here and in State College.
“I’m waiting to see … I don’t know how it’s going to play out,” said Greg Abeln, Class of 1981, who practices law in Carlisle. “I am apprehensive about the future. It remains to be seen.”
He sees the dual campus as a quid pro quo arrangement Penn State made to appease the public outcry almost seven years ago after word surfaced of a proposal to move Dickinson School of Law entirely to State College.
For now, Abeln said, he is open to giving Penn State the benefit of doubt. He noted the dual campus has yet to operate at its full potential because the project is still underway to renovate and expand the Trickett Hall building in Carlisle.
When asked if there is cause for concern, Abeln said, “Absolutely. It seems the thrust right now is towards the creation of a new law school at State College.”
It seems the bulk of resources so far has gone toward the construction and start-up of the Lewis Katz building at University Park, which opened in January, Abeln said.
He wonders if putting the construction priority on the State College site has hurt long-term prospects of future law school applicants choosing Carlisle over State College.
Carlisle-based students currently take classes at the former Advantica building on the Carlisle Pike in Middlesex Township. Penn State plans to resume classes at an expanded and renovated Trickett Hall site in January 2010.
“Which campus would you want to attend?” Abeln asked. “An ultra-modern building in the middle of the Penn State campus or an old building out on the Pike?”
In giving applicants a choice of campus, Abeln asks, how can the traditional small town setting of Tricket Hall compete with the educational facilities of University Park?
His concern is that, in a matter of years, more applicants are going to choose State College and, sooner or later, this possible downturn in requests for Carlisle could prompt Penn State to close the Trickett Hall site for economic reasons.
“That’s what I’m afraid of … but again, I could be wrong,” Abeln said.
Cumberland County GOP chairman Victor Stabile, a 1982 DSL graduate and practicing attorney, is president of its Capital Area Alumni Chapter.
“Right now, the dual campus is in its formative stages,” Stabile said. “I’m optimistic about the Penn State commitment.”
Stabile noted the capital investment Penn State made in the renovation and expansion of the Trickett Hall site. The $50 million project includes $10 million from the university, $15 million from private philanthropy and $25 million in matching funds from the state.
“The dual campus would only succeed if a strong and equal commitment is made to the Carlisle campus so it remains a genuine law school in central Pennsylvania,” Stabile said. “That means students who want to attend Carlisle have to be permitted to stay in Carlisle. That is the point where we are at and what has yet to be seen.”
Tensions have settled down since Penn State put the dual campus concept in place, Stabile said.
“There is a long history behind this move. I would like to think everybody is now supportive of this idea,” he said.
He believes the ranks have closed and most alumni want to see the dual campus succeed.
“We can only be optimistic,” said attorney James D. Flower Jr., also a DSL alumni. “The dual campus will have to play out over time. It could work if Penn State remains committed to the law school in Carlisle.”
Flower agrees with Stabile that the investment in the Trickett Hall project is evidence of a commitment by Penn State.
“I understand it will be comparable,” he said, “as attractive and up to date as the law school in State College.”