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Dickinson Dean Bars Reporter

By Jeff Cronin, December 18, 2003
The Sentinel

PITTSBURGH - Dickinson School of Law Dean Phillip McConnaughay refused to let the media into a meeting of law school alumni in Pittsburgh Wednesday citing The Sentinel's "inaccurate reporting" of similar meetings earlier this week.

He said more people than reported spoke in favor of the law school's possible move to State College from Carlisle at the sessions in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del., Monday.

McConnaughay recalls at least three people - not just one - who spoke out in support of the move.

About a dozen alumni were seen entering the conference room at the Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, some of whom would not comment about a possible move until after they heard the facts.

Of those who did speak to a reporter, only one wanted to see the law school remain in Carlisle by any means necessary.

Four others, including three who earned their undergraduate degrees from Penn State University, supported a move.

"A move to State College would be advantageous in the long run," said Joel Dennison, a 2002 graduate of Dickinson and a 1986 graduate of Penn State from Pittsburgh.

Pro and con

While he admitted a move would, in the short term, be a "serious detriment" to the Carlisle community, "the law school has to look out for its own interests."

He also said one would have to look toward older generations of Dickinson graduates to see a vast support of staying in Carlisle.

"I don't necessarily think it's a good idea," said John Auld of Mars, Butler County, a northern suburb of Pittsburgh. "It doesn't seem like a smart thing to do."

Auld says any good law school should be near a large city or state capital in order to be able to provide students with practical experience through internships and part-time employment in their future fields.

Still, Auld said he was going into the meeting with an open mind to learn more about the decision-making process.

Not all of the more seasoned alumni at the meeting were against a move.

"We just can't survive in Carlisle," said 1966 graduate Dick Lauver of Pittsburgh, referring to documents he received from the law school.

Lauver is also a Penn State graduate.

He said it would not make financial sense to remain in Carlisle.

Facility has problems

Christie Brown of Pittsburgh, a 2002 graduate of the law school, said the facilities in Carlisle do not meet the students' needs.

Had her decision come down to facilities, "I would not have selected Dickinson," she said.

Fellow 2002 graduate Andrew Tillapaugh agreed with Brown.

While he and his father, a 1976 graduate of Dickinson School of Law, appreciate the campus, "history and tradition," they both support a move to State College.

Before Wednesday's meeting started, McConnaughay said about 15 people, plus himself and two other representatives from the law school, attended a Wednesday afternoon session in Erie.

There, he said the alumni focused on students.

"These people want what's best for our current and future students," McConnaughay said. He would not discuss the specific points that were brought up by the Erie-area alumni, but said he would report their thoughts directly to the school's board of governors.

No more alumni meetings have been scheduled, but McConnaughay expects more will occur throughout the region after the first of the year in locations where the school has large groups of alumni.

McConnaughay said Dickinson School of Law alumni have been sharing their opinions through phone calls and e-mails.

He explains the interest in the possible move to State College because of the connection the school's graduates still have to Dickinson.

"Our alums are known for their loyalty," he said.