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CARLISLE - Carlisle is celebrating the outcome of its nine-month battle with Penn State University over the future of The Dickinson School of Law.
On Friday, Dickinson's board of governors voted 22-12 to defer Penn State's proposal to build a second law campus in State College. Instead, the 170-year-old school will embark on a $50 million campus upgrade centered around Trickett Hall.
"It's a new dawn. We have an apparent commitment to make improvements to the law school to bring it to the level of one of the top law schools in the country," said Carlisle Council President Frank Rankin.
"I'm thrilled. They're a good part of the community. They add a lot, not only economically but with wonderful people. The community should not have to lose that caliber of people," Carlisle dentist Tom Filip said during early morning errands yesterday at the Old Pomfret Street Farmers Market.
His joy was mixed with criticism for Penn State.
"Penn State has been fairly underhanded in trying to steal the law school. It's an integral part of this community. I really feel that Penn State was not up-front in their dealings," Filip said.
Ray Snyder, farmers market manager, said he was baffled by Penn State's stance that the law school would be better off in State College. He said the university is known for its satellite campuses, and that people associate the university medical center with Hershey and the law school with Carlisle. "If you said, 'Dickinson Law in Penn State,' people might say 'Where's that?'"
Penn State officials since November have pushed variations of a plan to give Dickinson a stronger State College presence. They said moving the school, or a portion of it, closer to the main campus would give students more curriculum opportunities and could boost admissions and Dickinson's national ranking.
But the university needed approval from the law school's board of governors.
The governors don't run the law school. Their board, created in 2000 when Dickinson and Penn State merged, has few duties. But it can veto any plan to move the school and any change to Dickinson's name.
Penn State had offered to build a $60 million law campus in State College and contribute $10 million toward a $25 million upgrade of the Carlisle campus. But Rodney Erickson, university vice president and provost, stipulated that Penn State trustees be given the power to close the Carlisle campus if it can't survive financially.
Many law school board members balked at that potential loss of power. On Friday, they decided to defer the dual-campus option in favor of strengthen the existing campus.
But some members said a declaration of victory is premature.
Leslie Anne Miller said there's no proof that Penn State won't resurrect plans to move the school.
"One of the problems in this whole situation is lack of trust," member Sandor Yelen said. "One of the concerns is that Penn State wants to get its foot in the door ... and ease [the board] out and ... have the only law school at Penn State and [Carlisle] will be closed."
Penn State President Graham Spanier and law Dean Philip McConnaughay did not return yesterday's requests for comment. But Erickson denied any such plan.
"We would have done everything within our power to make the two-campus proposal work. It was never a back-door kind of approach," he said.
And board member Jan Jurden, a Delaware superior court judge, chastised fellow members for spurning Penn State's multimillion-dollar offer. The governors risk such damage to Dickinson that "I can't imagine continuing to serve on this board," she said.
Carlisle community members are upbeat about the law school's future.
Penn State officials have indicated university trustees are likely to approve a $10 million contribution to the $50 million improvement project for Carlisle. Plans include technological upgrades, expansion of the law library and more offices and classrooms. The trustees will discuss the project next month during a meeting on the university's five-year capital plan.
Alumni said they are optimistic $15 million can be raised from donations and charitable contributions and Gov. Ed Rendell has already promised $25 million in matching funds.
Chris Gulotta of the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority said Penn State's commitment to Carlisle will be demonstrated by a campus renovation.
Rankin said the council has begun talks on new partnerships with Penn State and the law school. He said the relationship could be modeled on interaction the town has with Dickinson College, which is not affiliated with the law school, and which has, in recent years, enhanced its community ties.
Governors board member Lewis Katz, owner of the New Jersey Nets, said it's also time for the board to strengthen its alliance with Penn State.
"Let's not lose the opportunity that [Rendell] has provided us, that Senator [Hal] Mowery and the Legislature has provided us, that Penn State has provided us," he said. "If we could all put aside our distrust ... miscommunication and the way the situation was handled so poorly will in time go away."
Patriot-News reporter Joe Elias contributed to this story.
CARLISLE - Instead of opening a second campus at Penn State University, The Dickinson School of Law governors want to launch a $50 million renovation of the Carlisle site.
The governors, in a 22-12 vote yesterday, shelved a proposal from Penn State administrators to build a second law campus at State College.
"This is an outstanding day for our school. I'm ecstatic," Dickinson board member Jason Kutulakis said.
"I think it's very good news for the community and very good news for the law school as well," Carlisle Mayor Kirk Wilson said.
"The governor thinks the Carlisle campus is the best option for the law school, for Carlisle and for the future of the institution and for Penn State, as well," said Ed Rendell's spokeswoman, Kate Philips.
After the vote, however, some board members warned casting aside Penn State's offer could hurt Dickinson's efforts to draw more top-notch applicants and boost the school's national rankings. Those had been Penn State's reasons for suggesting the dual campuses and an expanded curriculum this summer.
"The dual-campus idea is a 21st-century idea, and I think we've got to look past the horizon," said board member William Caroselli, who voted against deferring Penn State's proposal.
Board member Lewis Katz, phoning in his vote from Athens, Greece, where he is accompanying the U.S. basketball team to the Olympics, said he spent Wednesday and Thursday evening on the phone with Penn State President Graham Spanier and governors board Chairman LeRoy Zimmerman hashing out a new plan.
"Instead of an outright rejection [of the two-campus plan], we're not at this time prepared to do a second campus [or] consider anything other than a new law school in Carlisle. Let's build our one law school now in Carlisle," said Katz, who is the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets. "Give Carlisle what Carlisle deserves, the continued presence of a world-class law school."
Katz said Spanier "couldn't be more supportive about a new law school in Carlisle ... [and] helping to fund raise in any way we ask him."
After the meeting, Penn State released a statement from Spanier: "The decision not to accept the two-campus proposal is disappointing, but we will do our best to move ahead constructively from here. Penn State now needs to move forward and develop a new vision and strategic plan for our law school."
And Penn State left the door open on the possibility for a second law campus in State College someday.
"Can it be revisited in the future? Yeah," said Wendell Courtney, Penn State's lawyer.
Rodney Erickson, Penn State vice president and provost, said the university trustees will discuss spending $10 million on Carlisle renovations during next month's talk on the university's five-year capital plan.
Rendell has pledged a $25 million matching grant from the state capital budget fund.
"As soon as the $25 million in matching funds is raised, the governor will be delighted to release the state funds," Philips said.
In addition to Penn State's contribution, charitable grants and alumni donations are expected to provide $15 million.
Some Dickinson board members said they want more money from Penn State for the renovation project.
"I have a great concern that we're not getting more earnest money from Penn State," Joan Mahrer said.
Don Taylor said he thought alumni giving would fall short.
But Katz was optimistic. "I promise you I will lead the charge if I'm asked," he said.
Member Hubert X. Gilroy said that when the board last summer launched talks about a renovation of Trickett Hall, funding was a great concern.
Now, "we are $25 million to the better," he said. "I think this is a fabulous proposal."
Board member Jan Jurden, a Delaware Superior Court judge, said the board was failing in its duty to Dickinson by snubbing Penn State's original proposal to build a $60 million law campus in State College and help pay for $25 million in renovations at Carlisle.
Board member Leslie Anne Miller also voted "no," saying she was troubled by inadequate planning for Dickinson's future. "We do not have the necessary strategic plan to guide this decision," she said.
The board, meeting yesterday in Dickinson's Trickett Hall, was originally expected to take up a recommendation to study the two-campus plan. Penn State warned the board that if the dual campuses failed to work, the university could close the Carlisle campus. Most board members said they would never agree to that condition.
"It's very satisfying to see it end up the way it has," said state Sen. Hal Mowery, R-Cumberland.
Mowery fought for state money to renovate the Carlisle campus and sponsored an amendment to the state Sunshine Act that opened the law school's board meetings to the public.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The governing board of Penn State University's law school has very limited power, but it has flexed that minuscule muscle to the fullest to try to keep Dickinson School of Law firmly planted in Carlisle.
In an effort to end months of debate over how to improve the law school - and where those improvements should happen - the board voted by roughly a two-thirds margin Friday to recommend that Penn State concentrate on renovating and expanding the Carlisle campus. Penn State's board of trustees could consider the recommendation as early as next month.
The vote effectively scuttled a proposal floated by Penn State President Graham Spanier to divide Dickinson's campus between Carlisle and the university's main campus in State College. The idea was touted as a means of mollifying community leaders, state legislators, and others upset by an even earlier recommendation last fall to move Dickinson to the University Park campus.
Established in 1834, Dickinson has been largely under Penn State's control since a merger between the two schools was consummated in 2000. At the time, Penn State was one of only two Big 10 universities without a law school, and Dickinson - the state's oldest law school - was seeking a way to survive in an increasingly competitive higher education market.
Under the merger agreement, the university and its board of trustees oversee Dickinson's day-to-day operations, from hiring faculty to approving new courses. Dickinson's board of governors was given an advisory role, but retained authority over the law school's name and location, which was to be in Carlisle "in perpetuity."
LeRoy S. Zimmerman, chairman of Dickinson's board, said that even thought Penn State never suggested at the time of the merger that it would contemplate a campus move, Dickinson still wanted to retain a measure of veto power over the possibility.
When the idea of relocating to State College surfaced, sweetened by the prospect of Penn State footing the estimated $60 million cost of a new campus, "that immediately created a suspicion and a skepticism that it's a good thing that we put this language in, because otherwise, we'd be up in Happy Valley," Zimmerman said.
And even though the dual-campus agreement was touted as a potential compromise, it became apparent in July during negotiations between Dickinson and Penn State that the university wasn't giving up on gaining more leverage over the law school.
As a condition of that proposal, Penn State insisted upon having the power to either transfer the Carlisle campus back to Dickinson's board or close it altogether if it couldn't be sustained after at least 10 years of operation.
Although both sides characterized the talks as collegial and without rancor, Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney Erickson acknowledged that a power struggle was simmering beneath that placid public face.
"A fundamental issue ... is that we were asking them to relinquish that power," Erickson said. "Higher education is changing so rapidly, including legal education, that we need to be able to respond in ways that make 'in perpetuity' difficult. Change is the order of the day."
But now, assuming Penn State's trustees concur, change will be focused on what promises to be a massive face-lift and expansion of the Carlisle campus, an estimated $50 million project to be completed by August 2008.
Spanier has indicated that the university will now begin working on a "new vision" for Dickinson. And Zimmerman hopes both sides can collaborate on that vision.
"I think that the board of governors has exercised its limited authority under the merger agreement to the nth degree ... and as a result we are where we are today," Zimmerman said. "We're going to try to move ahead, and try to use some of that mild friction as a positive force of energy."