When you have a major law school initiative overturned by local politicians, you can start numbering your days as law school dean.

The inevitable happened today: Philip J. McConnaughay, dean of Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, announced he is leaving the school.

I don’t see what else could have happened. Penn State Law is looking at a 20 percent drop in law school applications, one of the largest in the country. Dean McConnaughay’s major plan to consolidate Penn State’s two campuses was stopped in its tracks by politicians who, frankly, have no idea about the economics of running a law school these days. Then he proposed splitting the two campuses into two different law schools.

Now, he’s just leaving. Not just Penn State, the man is leaving the country. He’s taking an opportunity to become dean of Peking University’s School of Transnational Law.

It reminds me of when a basketball player can no longer play in the NBA and starts playing club ball in China…

Let’s quickly recap the curious tenure of Dean McConnaughay. In 2006, he turned Penn State Law into a two-campus school, the original one in Carlisle (Carlisle was the home of the Dickinson School of Law, which Penn State bought in 2000), and another campus in University Park. That was a fun idea if you didn’t know the entire freaking economy was basically going to collapse in two years. When the bottom fell out, McConnaughay proposed moving all of the three-year law school operations to University Park, while converting the Carlisle campus into a specialty program designed to get money out of international law students. When Carlisle politicians balked, fearing that taking away the law students would hurt the local economy (and apparently not understanding that international law students have money too), McConnaughay then proposed to split the two campuses into two different schools with two different financial structures.

You’ve got to wonder if McConnaughay would like to go back to 2006 and not open a second campus.

But now he’s leaving. From Penn State Live:

“Dean McConnaughay has been a leader in transnational legal practice and international arbitration. This rare opportunity for him to influence legal education on a global scale certainly speaks volumes about his expertise and skills,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. “It is definitely our loss and Peking University’s gain in hiring such a distinguished legal educator to lead their law school.”

I guess there is more than one way to profit off of the legal dreams of international students.

Students at Penn State haven’t been as congratulatory towards Dean McConnaughay on his way out of the door. From a tipster:

The students at Penn State Law thank him for leaving and, most, wish it just could have happened sooner when he wouldn’t have left such a big mess to clean up.

Yeah, there are all kinds of messes at Penn State University. I can’t wait to see who Penn State finds to try to clean this one up.

Law dean named dean of Peking University School of Transnational Law [Penn State Live]

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


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