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Penn State Law Faculty Issues Statement Opposing Proposed Dickinson Law Merger

Over 40 Penn State faculty members signed a letter responding to Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi’s November 29 recommendation of unifying the university’s two accredited law schools — Penn State Law at University Park and Dickinson Law. Penn State previously had a dual-campus law school from 2006 to 2014 before splitting into two separate schools in 2015.

As part of Bendapudi’s recommendation, the university would operate a central location for the merged schools in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The Penn State president also announced the creation of a panel consisting of students, faculty, and alumni for stakeholder input.

Faculty members of Penn State Law responded by penning a statement recommending the two units remain separate, in opposition to Bendapudi’s previous announcement.

“We, the undersigned faculty members of Penn State Law, look forward to informing the panel of the tremendous value that Penn State Law has to the University and the State College community, which would be lost if the unified law school did not maintain a significant presence in University Park,” the letter wrote.

The letter highlighted Penn State Law’s strong alumni base of “over 2,500 graduated students” since 2006, explaining the worldwide impact of the branch’s graduates.

“The LL.M. program has produced hundreds of alumni in more than 90 countries, who now fill key positions in major U.S. and international law firms, government, the United Nations, NGOs, the judiciary, and law schools worldwide,” the faculty wrote. “In addition, Penn State Law has maintained more global agreements and partnerships than any other unit at Penn State, helping the University to increase its global footprint.”

Faculty argued that moving on from the law school’s University Park location could potentially dissuade otherwise interested international students, citing the campus offers “access to a large community of international students as well as numerous support services for international visitors.”

The proximity of Penn State Law’s Katz Building to the rest of the University Park campus was pinpointed by the faculty members as another unique draw of the program, asserting the university’s interdisciplinary opportunities “attract” students and faculty members alike. The letter argues these interdisciplinary courses and experiences not only supplement studies but also garner significant contributions to other units and programs on campus from alumni and faculty.

The statement continued by contending the University Park location is important for recruitment purposes when it comes to high-profile faculty.

“Penn State Law has been able to recruit nationally recognized scholars, who were teaching at law schools more highly ranked than Penn State Law and who had — and will continue to have — opportunities to move to other law schools,” the letter read. “But one of the reasons they chose Penn State Law was the opportunity to join the scholarly community at Penn State Law and the wider University Park campus.”

“It will be difficult for Penn State to retain many of these highly respected scholars unless there is a significant law school presence in University Park,” the letter continued.

The letter’s final paragraph encouraged Bendapudi’s stakeholder panel to refrain from merging the schools.

“We recognize that there is a cost to having law schools in two locations, but given the development of Penn State’s two law schools, it has been proven that both have added value and have provided benefits to Penn State and their respective communities,” the letter concluded. “We are confident that once the panel created by President Bendapudi has reviewed all the data, it will likewise see the tremendous value in the unified law school continuing to have a significant presence in University Park.”

You can read the full letter below.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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