August 12, 2012
In a Penn State of Mind
For the last few years on my travels between New Jersey and Tennessee, I had found myself passing by Penn State Law's Carlisle campus, always wanting to pop in for a visit. While I enjoy visiting places of historic signifigance, I delight in visiting law schools and law libraries. This summer, on our way home from visiting our families in New Jersey, my wife, son and I took the opportunity to visit the historic Dickinson School of Law in Carlise. PA where I was able to take in some history while visiting a law school. And I must say that second to experiencing my 99 year old grandmother meeting her new great-grandson, our visit was my highlight of the trip (traveling with infants is not easy).
It is not a large law school, but, for its size (and perhaps in part because of its size), I found the Carlisle campus to be delightful. Throughout much the building, the interior is illuminated by natural light, in part due to sunlight entering the building through the courtyard at the center of the building; the classrooms hold state-of-the-art technology (not unlike the Duncan School of Law's own classroom technology); and the rooftop is covered (purposefully, I believe - I hope) with vegetation. Moreover, traces of the original architecture provide a historic flair to the modern feel of the building's recent renovations.
I found the law library's collection development policy to make sense. Relying heavily on West's National Reporter System's content in DVD, only a few reporters can be found in print. (Oddly, they have a more extensive collection of case digests than reporters; but it will likely only be a matter of time before but a few remain.) The law journal print collection reflects a reliance on Hein and ILP. While a microform room exists, it is tucked away. The reference materials in print are of a manageable size. And a collection of rare books are promintantly displayed. I also was pleased to see that the State of Pennsylvania took sufficient sides to maintain a paper trail of its legislative record.
To be honest, it was one of my two favorite law library tours to date. This one included a couple of ghost stories too.
So when news came that the end of the Carlise campus might be near, it was almost saddening. Fortunately, the news was misreported. In the face of financial pressures created by declining applications, Penn State is confornted with a few options in regards to the Carlise. In an internal memo from Dean McConnaughay three options were proposed:
- Stay the course and maintain full programs at both campuses.
- Eliminate the first-year program in Carlisle and require all first-year students to study in State College, and promote the Carlisle campus to upper-level law students
- Require all law students to spend one or more semesters of the three-year program in State College
If the school decides not to stay the course, finding that a duplicative first year program is too cost prohibitive, I would suggest to eliminate the first year program in Carlise (though I doubt anyone of import cares what I think). One of the perks of having a campus in Carlise is the fact that it is so close to the state capital, and being so close to a state capital offers far more internship, externship and employment opportunities than the more distant and somewhat more remote Univerity Park campus. And few things provide better training in a profession like law than real life experience. In any event, the original Dickinson School of Law made a positive impression on me, and I see it as a glimmer in light in the darkness of the university's recent history. (DCW)