Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Premeditated Murder of Dickinson by Penn State

PSU’s law school is the brainchild of Graham Spanier, who early in his tenure at the university’s president decided that the university ought to have a law school, because prestige etc. At that time, Tom Ridge was Pennsylvania’s governor. Ridge is an alumnus of the Dickinson School of Law, a small private law school in Carlisle, which is the seventh-oldest law school in the country, having operated since the early 19th century. (It’s never been affiliated with Dickinson College, the well-regarded liberal arts college in the same town).
Spanier decided that the best way to advance this scheme was to convince Ridge to allow PSU to acquire Dickinson. Over the next few years complex political negotiations — in which Ed Rendell apparently played some role as well — eventually produced the following deal: The law school would become part of PSU, and a second campus for the school would open in State College, site of PSU’s flagship campus. PSU agreed to keep the Carlisle campus open until at least 2025, or 2020 if the university declared a financial exigency. The university committed to spending an enormous sum — about $130 million — on creating the new campus and updating the old one. Consequently, PSU built a $60 million law school building in State Park, which opened in 2009, and spent an additional $50 million on a new building and the upgrading of the existing physical plant at the Carlisle campus. The new Carlisle facilities were completed in 2010.
Spanier’s “vision” called for a law school with a typical first year enrollment of around 240 students, with two thirds of these in State College and the rest in Carlisle. This exercise in classic imperial administrative overstretch began to fall apart almost immediately. Predictably, the faculties of the law school’s two campuses didn’t get along. The State College faculty wanted to chase after rankings, which meant playing the academic prestige game, which in turn meant trying to hire faculty who would publish lots of law review articles. The righteous remnant in Carlisle, also quite predictably, started thinking of itself as focused on professional training — “experiential learning” in the current jargon — rather than on “theory.” (“Theory” is the buzzword for anything smacking of academic pretentions in this thing of ours).

Go to the link for the rest.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dickinson law school to provide grant to Pennsylvanians

CARLISLE — Penn State University Dickinson School of Law is giving state residents a new reason to consider the law school.
The school will provide a renewable, annual grant of $20,000, available through the Commonwealth Scholars program, for Pennsylvania residents who are applying to the law school.

Maybe this marks a trend of returning to the notion of state-supported law schools.  Tuition at a private school is understandably higher than at a state school.  But in the last decade or so, even the state schools have hiked up their tuition to private-school levels.  State schools should be more affordable for residents of the state, so this is a move in the right direction.

My first year at DSL was 1977-1978.  Back then, the state gave a small grant to Pennsylvania residents.  I was from Maryland so I didn't receive it.  But then, I think even without the grant, my tuition was only about $1500 per semester.  (That's the number I remember; maybe someone else can confirm.)   I paid for the first year of law school (including living expenses) with a $5,000 inheritance and got a student loan for $10,000 to pay for the last two years, so I think my memory is accurate.  (I also had what they called a "library scholarship" for middler year, which means I worked in the law library.  For third year I worked for Dean Wilks.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Can DSL come back from the dead after mauling by Penn State?

First-year enrollment takes serious hit at Dickinson School of Law's Carlisle campus

By Charlie Thompson and Eric Veronikis
First-year student enrollment has dropped drastically this semester at Penn State Dickinson School of Law’s Carlisle campus.
And as alarming as the more than 38 percent loss is, school officials said the fallout is symptomatic of a trend that has produced significantly fewer law school applicants nationwide.
And law schools statewide, including Widener University School of Law’s Delaware and Susquehanna Township campuses, are not immune from the problem, either.
Law school officials said numbers are declining nationally, because the economy has caught up with the legal field, creating fewer positions for graduates. And more students today believe law school is not a worthwhile investment, due to the amount of debt they must incur to earn law degrees.
Carlisle had 34 first-year students enroll this fall, down from 55 students during the fall of 2012. And while the school will not submit its official enrollment figures to the American Bar Association until early next month, Dickinson doesn’t expect the number to deviate, said Ellen Foreman, spokeswoman for the law school.
The school’s State College campus enrolled fewer students this semester, too.
But its 6 percent decline pales compared with Carlisle’s fallout. State College, which had 105 first-year students during last year’s fall semester, saw its enrollment drop to 98 this year.
Combined, the two campuses saw first-year student enrollment fall by 17.5 percent.
Carlisle’s problems could be compounded by the uncertainty created at that campus byformer Dean Phillip J. McConnaughay’s failed proposal last year to end first-year instruction there.
McConnaughay, in response to the trends, had proposed a pairing of the classes at Penn State, to include the elimination of future first-year instruction at Carlisle.
After strong pushback from alumni and Carlisle community leaders, many of whom argued that Penn State was reneging on a commitment to maintain a full program at Dickinson’s original campus, McConnaughay reverted to the split campus proposal.
Two accreditations, not one
“The purpose of the separate accreditation is to address the declining enrollment issues, giving each campus the ability to market itself and accredit itself,” she said.
Barry Currier, who directs the ABA’s law school accreditation process, confirmed last week that Penn State has submitted an application to gain separate accreditations for its two law campuses.
That process is ongoing, and will pick up with the first of possibly several site visits later this fall.
Until a final determination is made, the schools are expected to continue operating under the joint accreditation awarded to Penn State’s unified campus.
“It’s obviously toward the beginning of that process,” Currier said.
Foreman said she does not expect the two schools to operate under their own accreditations until the fall 2015 semester.
Currier declined comment when asked if the shrinkage at Carlisle would complicate the accreditation process, though ABA officials separately have noted there is no specific number of students or staff required by the ABA.
What the examiners will be looking for at Carlisle and State College, Currier said, is more of a quality assurance that each school will meet all of the educational requirements for a Juris Doctor degree, with the attendant library and other support services.
Earlier this year, meanwhile, the Carlisle faculty said they would support seeking a separate accreditation on three conditions:
  • That the separation not take effect until both law campuses receive a full accreditation from the ABA;
  • That the school have its own dean with reporting lines to the provost, Penn State’s top academic officer;
  • That the Carlisle campus’ budget be built on small classes to give it a chance to begin its independent life with high enrollment standards.
What is obvious is that the contraction of the traditional legal education market — the issue that McConnaughay said was the driving force behind his efforts to retool the law school — is continuing.
According to numbers from the Law School Admissions Council, nationally, the number of law school applicants for the class starting this fall fell 12.3 percent from 2012, to 59,426.
By contrast, law schools heard from 100,600 applicants in 2004, the high-water mark over the past decade.
Total law school applications - most individuals apply to multiple schools - dropped even more steeply last year, by 17.9 percent, to a total of 385,368. That’s also a drop of more than 36 percent from the recent high of 602,300 applications received by schools in 2010.
Discouraged by debt
James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement in Washington, D.C., attributes some of the decline in applicants and applications to a weak job market for new lawyers in the wake of the 2007-08 recession, all played out against the backdrop of a relatively new national conversation about the student loan debt being racked up for higher education generally.
"I do think people at this point are more reluctant to borrow to go to school than they used to be," said Leipold, adding that may show up disproportionately for graduate schools.
In the legal profession, in particular, he noted, "the job market has been very weak since the recession set in, and there's been no shortage of publicity about that."
Ups and downs at Widener
He and other experts said they are still waiting to see where the bottom is.
Widener University saw its first-year enrollment drop from 468 during the fall of 2011, to 316 this year. That figure includes full- and part-time students. And Like Dickinson, Widener has yet to submit its final enrollment numbers to the ABA this semester.
Widener believes its numbers fit in with what is happening nationally, and that the problem is cyclical.
Juris Doctorate "admissions have experienced ups and downs in the past, and while the challenge is significant, we firmly believe in the value of a law degree, and its long-term appeal for a professional career in government work, public service work, compliance work, academic work and corporate work,” said Mary Allen, Widener spokeswoman. 
Shrinkage welcome at Duquesne
Similar to McConaughay’s attempt, Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University School of Law has made it a point to shrink its program as enrollment has declined.
Duquesne enrolled about 200 first-year students five years ago. This fall, first-year enrollment has fallen to about 140, said Ken Gormley, dean of the law school.
“Like all law schools, we have experienced downturn in applicants and enrollment, but we have tried to manage it carefully and intelligently. In the past two years, we worked with president of the university to gradually shrink the entering class so we don’t do any harm to the program,” Gormley said.
Like Dickinson, Duquesne has refused to lower its enrollment standards to fill seats.
Duquesne welcomed some of its shrinkage, because enrolling 200 students was “too big and we knew it,” Gormley said.
The school's firs-year enrollment of about 140 students this year is consistent with last year's figure, he said.
“I believe some of this is a re-alignment of the legal profession itself, and most of that is driven by technology itself. Just like newspapers are faced with a dramatic change in the world by technology, and law hasn’t been impacted as dramatically, but it isn’t impervious to these changes,” Gormley said.
“I don’t think there is a need for less lawyers, but I do think how graduates are going to be practicing is going to be changing.”

Friday, June 07, 2013

Land-locked Dickinson Law appoints a Navy Admiral as Interim Dean

A distinguished scholar in residence at both schools, Houck served as the principal military legal counsel to the secretary of the Navy and chief of naval operations and led the 2,300 attorneys, enlisted legal staff and civilian employees of the worldwide Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Houck once served as deputy legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as principal legal counsel to the commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Things did not go well at public comment for that Dean

Community scrutinizes Dickinson School of Law plans 

The mood was tense Thursday night as Dean Philip McConnaughay detailed the university’s proposed plan to place first-year law students in the University Park campus and increase specialty programs at the Carlisle campus.

Follow the link to the full article to see just how tense.

The Sentinel weighed in with this editorial

Sentinel View: Law school should honor its agreement

September 22, 2012 9:00 am  • 
Penn State Dickinson School of Law’s board of directors ought to find an alternative to its proposal to end first-year classes in Carlisle. Its scheme to force students to start their law-school education at State College instead of Carlisle would be bad for the local economy and bad for law students who want to get a full education here. It’s ironic that an institution that teaches students about contract law would so eagerly seek to breach a contract of its own.
Last week, law school’s board of directors said financial pressure will force the college to end first-year classes in Carlisle. Instead, students would be required to begin at State College and then opt to complete their second and third years here. Just seven years ago, that same board signed a deal with the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority where they promised, in exchange for a $25 million grant to redesign Trickett Hall, to maintain a full three-year law-degree program in Carlisle until at least 2025. The college’s board said the market for legal services has dried up, hence its proposal to cut and run.
While our understanding of contract law is limited, it defies logic that the law school could just arbitrarily decide to ignore its agreement to maintain three-year classes here simply because the economy fell out. It’s not like the $25 million grant didn’t come through, or that the work at Trickett Hall didn’t get completed. Local officials held up their end of the bargain; shouldn’t the law school? This obviously is a ploy to shut down the law school. How many students who start at State College will arbitrarily decide to transfer to Carlisle for their second and/or third years?
Times are tough for all sectors, and law schools are no exception. But it’s important for the law school to set a model for its students and honor its agreement, no matter how onerous it may be seven years into it. Carlisle needs a full three-year law-degree program available to students. Offering only second- and third-year education is cutting the community and its potential law students short."

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Pretty Obviously a Non-Starter from the Beginning

Dickinson law school plans up for discussion

The school is attempting to address a combined deficit and place both of its locations on a path to sustained economic self-sufficiency by dramatically cutting costs and increasing non-J.D. tuition revenues, while simultaneously preserving the excellence of our academic program and not raising J.D. tuition appreciably, McConnaughay said.

The school still needs the consent of the Dickinson Law Association, the county Redevelopment Authority.

I'll tell you which campus they should shut down, but I don't think they'll like it.  Why the Commonwealth was willing to spend the money to build that monument to vanity, I'll never understand.

The treachery continues.....Eliminate the Junior year at DSL

Long after the new law school was built in State College, and after the pedophilia scandal started John Dickinson twirling in his grave, the Dean of DSL made yet another push to totally destroy the historic institution in Carlisle by eliminating the first year of law school at the real DSL campus.  This made perfect sense because, after all, there's nothing students like to do more than move once to start at a new school and then move again to continue at a different campus, right?  No?  This was a new scheme to destroy the real DSL.

Here's the article published in the Sentinel when he first began to push this crazy scheme:

End to first-year law classes at Dickinson law school in Carlisle proposed
  and here's an excerpt from the article:
 Under the proposal by Dean Philip McConnaughay, all Penn State law students would start in State College, perhaps beginning as early as 2013. The Carlisle campus would continue to hold classes for second- and third-year students, including both in-person instruction and access to University Park classes through distance-learning technology.
The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News says the program would result in a student body significantly smaller than the 250 students once planned there.

The paper says the plan has drawn opposition from members of the Dickinson Law Association, a vestige of the independent school that merged with Penn State in 1997, the board of which retains review authority over some aspects of the dual campus agreement.
 Really?  Opposition?


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Back in Business!

Six years after losing control of this blog thanks to one company buying out another company and then being bought out by yet another company, etc., etc., I just got a response from the current owner, Google, and they got me all set up to post to this blog again!  Lots of news about DSL and that other school.  Will get caught up as soon as I can.