Law Schools

Penn State Law Will Continue To Have Two Campuses, Because Politicians Are Even Dumber Than You Think

Penn State, which will one day be a case study in “brand damage,” has been struggling to figure out what to do with its two law school campuses. The school has one in University Park, it has another one in Carlisle, and it’s dealing with an over 20 percent drop in law school applications.

Not good times.

The University was thinking of consolidating some programs across its two campuses to eliminate redundancies. The school was considering focusing its traditional law school operations on the University Park campus, while using the Carlisle campus to tap into the international market for law students. It makes sense because law students from China evidently don’t read Above the Law (if they did, I’d be saving Twinkies from bankruptcy by myself), and so they don’t yet know the racket of paying for American legal education.

It was a solid economic plan, but apparently the politicians are pulling the public university in the opposite direction….

Instead of consolidating operations, today Penn State Law Dean Philip J. McConnaughay announced that the school would be making each campus more independent. From his letter to the PSU Law community:

Following is a message I sent last Saturday informing the faculty of a resolution of the question of whether or not we will be consolidating our 1L program in University Park. We will not, for reasons I explain in my message to the faculty. Instead, we will be discontinuing, over the course of the next few years, the law school’s unified operation in favor of separately accredited campuses, similar to Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark or Indiana University-Bloomington and Indiana University-Indianapolis.

Yes, because any time you can take an idea from Rutgers, you are totally on the right track!

You can read his full letter to students and his full letter to the faculty on the pages that follow. One might think that it’s not surprising that the two-campus solution won out. The “redundancies” law schools can eliminate are usually faculty positions. But it turns out that Penn State is bowing to political pressure more than any kind of faculty concern:

Last week, nonetheless, the Cumberland County Commissioners sent letters to me, the DLA and the Redevelopment Authority opposing our 1L consolidation proposal. Governor Corbett then declared his administration’s opposition to our proposal. On Sunday, the Harrisburg Patriot News published an editorial opposing our proposal. Previously, several state representatives announced their opposition to our proposal… All of the opposition seems predicated on the mistaken assumption that the consolidation of the law school’s 1L program in University Park means fewer students in Carlisle, not more.

In light of this political opposition, we have decided to discontinue efforts to secure approval of our 1L consolidation proposal and proceed instead with our alternative plan of separately accredited campuses of the Dickinson School of Law. The Dickinson School of Law will remain a single academic unit of Penn State, but each of our campuses will develop and implement separate identities, separate admissions policies, and separate educational programs, similar to Rutgers Law-Newark and Rutgers Law-Camden, or Arkansas Law-Fayetteville and Arkansas Law-Little Rock.

If I’m following correctly, it means that the entire economy of Carlisle, PA is dependent on the fleecing of new law students. And the local politicians are so worried that they won’t have access to these kids who are flush with government-backed loan money, that they’re trying to stop the university from providing better service to their students. And they don’t even understand that foreign law students will have more money to blow on their education than the declining pool of American law students.


It turns out that law students who are too stupid to make wise economic choices are the base link in a large economic food chain. They are the salmon that feed an entire ecosystem. The bears (law schools) eat the most nutritious parts, but their discarded carcasses feed many more animals and insects, and then their what’s left fertilizes the soil so that other plants can grow.

And the law students who don’t get eaten and “make it” to their destinations just spawn MORE LAW STUDENTS.

Check out the Penn State emails. And realize that in this analogy, the politicians in Carlisle are basically stupid humans who are so bent on over-fishing the resource that they can’t see the damage they’re doing to their own environment.

(hidden for your protection)

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