Dickinsonians Weigh in on Proposed Penn State Law Changes


courtesy of Sarah Mash ’25

In November 2022, Neeli Bendapudi, President of Penn State University (PSU) suggested consolidating Penn State Dickinson Law, located in Carlisle, and Penn State Law University Park, in State College. However, due to the 2016 agreement that requires PSU to continue to maintain a law school in Carlisle, this newly merged law school must be located in Carlisle. 

Dickinson Law was established in 1834, making it the oldest law school in Pennsylvania and operated as an independent law school in Carlisle for more than 150 years until a merger with Penn State University took place in 1997. Since then, it has been known as Penn State Dickinson Law. Penn State Law, located at University Park, was established in 2014 and initially operated as a secondary campus of Penn State Dickinson Law, however it was recognized as a separate law school the following year.

In the merger announcement, Bendapudi reasoned that a stronger unified law school would not have to compete with any other internal unit for resources.

Members of the Dickinson College community are unsure as to what this would entail as the college holds a special relationship with PSU Dickinson Law and students at the school are allowed access to certain privileges on Dickinson’s campus, such the Waidner Spahr Library and Kline Fitness Center. Many students believe that an influx of new students using these facilities will create new issues and inhibit Dickinson College students.

Some faculty and staff at Penn State Law have responded negatively to the merger, with 40 faculty members signing a statement warning of “significant loss if a unified law school did not maintain a strong presence in University Park.” According to The Daily Collegian, some alumni of the law school have stated that they will cease donations if Penn State closes the University Park campus.

President John E. Jones ‘77 P ‘11, an alumnus of both Dickinson College and Penn State Dickinson Law, sees the merger as an opportunity and a positive situation for everyone. Jones claims that this “is the best course and will create economies that are better than the expense of operating the two school systems that exist now.”

However, this merger has “many logistical issues that must be worked out,” says Jones. Additionally, “Penn State has created a committee to make recommendations to the President of Penn State on how to deal with those.”

Although the timeframe of the move is unclear, Jones believes that a merger would hold positive benefits for all parties involved and will not only enrich opportunities for Dickinson students, but will also help stimulate Carlisle’s economy. Jones concluded that “It is clearly a good neighbor and adds much to both the borough and the climate of the community as well.”