Law Schools

Reports Of Penn State’s (Law School) Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

It may come as a shock to some people, but there are and always have been other things going on at Penn State University other than football and child molesting.

As many regular Above the Law readers know, Penn State has a law school with multiple campuses. One in University Park, another in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (and zero campuses in Princeton, New Jersey).

We’ve written before about the decline in law school applications, and PSU Law is a facing a similar problem. Some schools have responded by raising law school tuition. Penn State is thinking of consolidating some programs to eliminate redundancies between the two campuses.

But since it’s Penn State and people are still reeling from the penalties thrown at the football program, that simple story seems to have been blow way out of proportion….

A headline in the Patriot-News blared: “Penn State considering moves that threaten Dickinson School of Law’s accreditation.”

Threaten accreditation? From the ABA? Really? Yesterday we just reported on a law school that lied directly to the ABA for years, and their accreditation was not “threatened.” Anybody who actually pays attention to the ABA knows that it is highly unlikely that Penn State could do anything to threaten its own accreditation.

Patriot-News continues:

Did Penn State University learn nothing about transparency during the last eight months during the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and related fallout?

An internal memo obtained by The Patriot-News outlines at least one measure that would do away with the Dickinson School of Law’s two-campus operation and make other changes.

Look, the internet is going to be making Jerry Sandusky jokes about Penn State for a long time to come. But trying to make a strained connection between Sandusky, cover-ups, and internal memos that you don’t seem to understand feels cheap. Not as cheap asking, “How do you know a Penn State student got raped by the bar? I don’t know because nobody ever reports it.” But pretty cheap.

In any event, the school and Dean Philip J. McConnaughay has strenuously rebutted the report in Patriot-News. From the school’s website:

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.

The school also published the email dean McConnaughay sent the reporter:

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.

It’s fair to say that Penn State is making some changes because of the drop in applications affecting law schools across the country. It’s even fair to ask if PSU Law is experiencing a more severe drop due to the fallout from the Sandusky scandal.

But the school isn’t going anywhere, and its educational offerings are not going to suffer because of one criminal. The Dickinson School of Law is an excellent and respected institution; it’s going to withstand the football scandal and a few jokes on the internet.

Penn State considering moves that threaten Dickinson School of Law’s accreditation [Patriot-News]

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