Update: Response to false newspaper report
July 28, 2012
On July 26, the Harrisburg Patriot-News printed a retraction to their original story. You can view the updated story here.
Law School response to original story on July 25, 2012
The Harrisburg Patriot News, Libby Gibson reporting, has published an article alleging that the law school is considering "doing away with its two campus operation" and that the law school's accreditation is "threatened" as a result. These reports are false. Here is what the Patriot News left unreported, despite asking Dean McConnaughay to respond to an anonymous report about challenges that have been discussed openly at the law school with all faculty, all staff, and the law school's alumni Board of Counselors:
From: McConnaughay, Philip
Date: 07/24/2012 11:29AM
Subject: Re: law school story
I'm [not in the office at the moment]. If you'd email your questions I'll be happy to answer. The downturn in JD applications and JD students is a national phenomenon, affecting all law schools, not just PSU and certainly not just Carlisle. We are responding responsibly by reducing the size of our JD class so that we continue to have students of superior credentials and so that our graduates have a greater probability of securing meaningful work upon graduation. At the same time, we are enlarging the scope of our high quality educational programs other than JD legal education, such as our LLM program and shorter term professional education programs for US and foreign judges, lawyers and other professionals. Carlisle is likely to be the principal location of many of these efforts, just as it is the location in which we currently are expanding our international affairs curriculum. So, even though Penn State's Dickinson School of Law, like many other top law schools across the nation, is reducing the size of our JD program and population in response to national trends, we are increasing the size and role of other law school educational programs, including in Carlisle. It would be false to portray this change in the mix of our activities as anything other than strengthening The Dickinson School of Law, including in Carlisle. Phil
From: McConnaughay, Philip
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 2:40 PM
Cc: Foreman, Ellen; 'email@example.com'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'
Subject: RE: law school story
The law school is engaged in internal discussions about how best to respond to the national decline in J.D. degree applicants and to the increasingly fierce competition among the best law schools for the dwindling pool of especially talented J.D. applicants.
Part of our response will be to decrease the size of our J.D. student population for the reasons I mentioned in my email [above]; exactly how we implement and achieve this reduction is an open question still under discussion. Another part of our response will be to lower our operating expenses by reducing program and staffing duplication between our campuses and consolidating certain aspects of our J.D. program at one campus or the other.
None of the options under consideration (and there are more than two, as you seem to assume) contemplate not maintaining a vibrant and substantial law school campus in Carlisle. Most of the options, in fact, contemplate a more robust mix of legal education programs in Carlisle.
The only real “big news,” to use your phrase, in the possibility of consolidating certain aspects of our J.D. program at one campus or the other, is that a degree of consolidation would help free-up law school resources and personnel currently dedicated to duplicated aspects of our J.D. program and enable us to devote them instead to other high quality legal education programs, such as professional and international education, that would generate revenue and hopefully help save jobs at both of our campuses that otherwise would be threatened by declining J.D. tuition revenues.
Were the law school not to reduce the size of its J.D. population in response to the dramatic decline in J.D. applications nationally, the academic credentials of our incoming students would fall appreciably, our ability to find meaningful employment for all of our graduates would diminish, more law school graduates would graduate with high debt and no work, the reputation and stature of the law school would decline, and our best faculty and administrators would leave. This would disserve our students, our alumni, the law school, the University and Carlisle.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 12:22 PM
To: McConnaughay, Philip
Cc: Foreman, Ellen
Subject: Re: law school story
Thank you, Dean, ...
I appreciate the background on your thinking on class sizes, as well as the news that we'll be seeing some expansion in the LLM and professional education programs. Also, Ellen sent me the Plain Dealer story.
My questions have to do with several, law school, operational options apparently under consideration. My understanding is that two of these options have the potential for no longer fully maintaining the two-campus operation; that is, law students would not be able to earn their JD if they spent their entire three years strictly in Carlisle. If such options are being considered that would be, as you can imagine, big news for us in Carlisle and elsewhere.
To begin, I have these questions:
Can you confirm that the law school advisory board was asked to consider such an option at its Saturday meeting? Can you tell me if the members endorsed an option?
Also, has information been shared with PSU trustees about the potential for a change to the current two-campus operation, specifically any proposal that students would be unable to earn a PSU/DSL JD by spending three years strictly at the Carlisle campus?