The Board of Governors of Penn State's Dickinson School of Law unanimously adopted a resolution at its meeting Saturday afternoon supporting the exploration of a two-campus law school to be located in Carlisle and University Park.
Meeting at the Law School 's campus in Carlisle, Penn State President Graham Spanier and chair of the board LeRoy Zimmerman presented the plan on Friday night. Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell spoke to the board Friday night to reiterate his support for the law school and for Penn State. Penn State Board of Trustees chair Cynthia Baldwin also addressed the board to offer the Trustees' support for the new proposal.
"The dual locations will result in more options for faculty and students, the ability to attract nationally recognized legal educators, and an outstanding reputation," said Spanier. "We will provide legal education of the highest quality for Dickinson School of Law students with this new direction."
Currently The Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle is the only site where Penn State offers legal education.
Under the new proposal, Penn State would continue to offer fully accredited legal education in Carlisle as part of a single Dickinson School of Law with an additional, broader commitment to law education at its main campus in University Park.
The new proposal supercedes the prior proposal presented by the Penn State administration.
The resolution calls for a committee of the board, to be chaired by Zimmerman, to present to the entire board by Aug. 15 a proposal for approval. Penn State's Board of Trustees would then be expected to adopt the plan at their Sept. 10 meeting.
Law School Dean Philip McConnaughay described the proposal as an historic opportunity to create the most innovative, attractive and meaningful legal education program in the United States today.
"I look forward to our faculty working together cooperatively, creatively and energetically to implement this opportunity in a way that is consistent with the student-centered values of Penn State University and The Dickinson School of Law, McConnaughay said.
"Sometimes the pressure of division results in a favorable solution," said Zimmerman. "I believe this is such an occasion. I support the University's new proposal and appreciate the governor's support."
The resolution directs the committee to consult with law school faculty and the executive board of the alumni association in the coming weeks.
Under this proposal, the Carlisle campus of The Dickinson School of Law would have a target student body size of 300 and an improved student/faculty ratio of 15 to 1, restoring the traditional characteristics of the school at that location. The target student body size at the school's University Park facility will be 450, with a similar student/faculty ratio of 15 to 1.
To accommodate such a plan, an extensive renovation costing as much as $25 million will be undertaken in Carlisle. The University has agreed to provide $10 million toward the cost of renovations to historic Trickett Hall and its additions. Governor Rendell has committed an additional $10 million, and $5 million will be sought from governmental and community organizations in Carlisle and from philanthropy.
The renovations would restore and significantly enhance the facility's suitability and attractiveness to students, faculty and staff. A renovated Trickett Hall and a new Law School facility at University Park would include state-of-the-art interactive videoconferencing capabilities and classrooms, ensuring complete programming ties between the two campuses. As a result, Dickinson School of Law students in Carlisle would be able to enroll in classes offered at University Park , and vice versa.
In addition, the Law School would implement program options for upper-level law students to spend a semester or year in-residence at either the Carlisle or University Park campus in order to take advantage of the programs, clinics and externships unique to each campus.
The two campuses of The Dickinson School of Law would be administered as a single, integrated law school with an overlapping administration and consolidated budget.
"The success, reputation and stature of the University Park campus of the Law School will depend on the success, reputation and stature of the Carlisle campus, and vice versa," said Spanier. "The University's objective will be for The Dickinson School of Law to achieve recognition as one of the finest law schools in the United States."