The relationship between Penn State and the Dickinson School of Law might soon end, following months of unsuccessful discussion that would have created a dual campus, bringing the law school partially to University Park.
Officials from Penn State and the Dickinson College announced late Friday that preliminary discussions regarding a possible change in the law school's affiliation with Penn State would begin soon.
Penn State issued a statement saying the two schools are looking into ending the seven-year relationship, allowing an affiliation to form between the law school and Dickinson College, located near the law school in Carlisle.
Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said discussions have not taken place yet, but the two sides have agreed to consider a compromise, he said.
"It seems to make a lot of sense to them," he said.
He said the change might be attractive to Dickinson because the schools are in close proximity to each other, adding that the discussions would present an opportunity to address some of the concerns many people in Carlisle had about moving the law school.
"There are some obvious reasons on the surface why Dickinson is interested," he said. "It is obvious that for a law school to be competitive, it needs to be affiliated with a major university."
Mahon said that since the law school's Board of Governors voted against the dual-campus plan in August, the discussions present a new opportunity to help the law school become affiliated with a large school other than Penn State.
"If they pursue this, it would give the law school the larger university affiliation it needs to be a top institution in the nation," he said.
Mahon added that the possible affiliation with Dickinson College would have a lot of appeal for both the college and the Dickinson School of Law to look into.
If the board decides the law school should be with Dickinson College, Penn State may loose all affiliation with the school and would return to not having a law school, he said.
Mahon said he did not know the schools' exact position, but said officials are interested enough that they want to begin talks with Dickinson College.
"The clear trend in higher legal education is to have law schools affiliated with larger institutions so that students and faculty can get involved in interdisciplinary studies and research," he said. "Our interest all along is that we wanted to see the school succeed."
Dickinson College spokeswoman Christine Dugan said the college is ready to begin deliberations with Penn State and added that the talks would be a detailed process of "due diligence."
"We are a liberal arts college and to take this on would completely change our identity and reshape our mission," she said.
Dugan said the college is looking at the issue from three perspectives: the affinity between the two schools in Carlisle, Dickinson's commitment to the Carlisle community and the proximity of the their locations.
"We entered this agreement to see if this move would be a good fit," she said. "There are a lot of factors that have to be addressed before any type of specific negotiations can take place."
She added it was too premature to speculate on any goals that might result from the college's affiliation with the law school.
Dugan said the two schools have had a very loose affiliation for more than 100 years, but have never been associated.
Dugan said that if Penn State's administration, Board of Trustees and Dickinson's Board of Governors agree, negotiations with Penn State could begin.
Penn State and the Dickinson School of Law joined forces in 1997 and became fully affiliated in 2000. Though Dickinson College and the law school are located next to each other and have had close ties, they have always operated as separate entities.