« on: January 22, 2006, 11:01:53 PM »
Ok, here is the scoop, from an outsider's perspective...
Overall, let me begin by saying that I really enjoyed my visit to Carlisle and to Penn State Dickinson. For the purposes of this board, I will highlight the pros and cons, but overall I had a positive experience and have a good impression of the law school.
I rolled into the city at about 1 a.m. on Thursday night after a boring drive from Michigan. There was NOTHING open...no gas stations, restaurants, anything...if I ran out of gas I would have been in some serious trouble. Anyways, we drove into what is affectionately called 'the burrough' of Carlisle, the historic district where the college and most of the available apartments are located. Again, there was no one out and the town was completely quiet...it was a bit of a shock. The town was dark and dreary, and looked completely deserted.
The next day I woke up for my scheduled tour, and the town seemed to come to life. At 9:15 in the morning, the sun was shining, people were out walking, and cars filled the streets. The buildings seemed to have a bit more color although they were built in the 1800's. The buildings, shops, and the apartments are all attached, although the facades differentiate them. The people were of all ages, but mostly white. There are tons of little shops but none really had anything of interest. There are too many bars with not enough business, it seems, and a few cafes. The nearest Starbucks is 20 miles away, but I was happy to find a Taco Bell just one mile from the school. If you want a modest lifestyle, this is the place; think "Pleasantville" cerca 1891. The city seems to revolve around Dickinson College, which is absolutely beautiful. The buildings are all built in grayish stone and sprawl over a beautiful upkept campus.
The law school itself is in a beautiful, stately, colonial style building called Tricket Hall. The website does it no justice. The Levinson Curtilage is next door and houses offices and I believe the advocacy center. Unfortunately, it is almost a certainty that both will be torn down. More about this later. The front foyer and hallway houses all administrative offices, the office of the dean, and displays paintings of former deans. Past the foyer, most everything has been added on through the years and is in desperate need of renovation. The cafeteria is on this level, as are several classrooms. The basement houses the IT portion of the law school, but it looks underutilyzed because most students presumably have laptops. The upstairs houses the library, which was buzzing with students who all looked as though they haven't slept in days. However, what was neat about the library is that each student had a cubicle/desk claimed and had their own personal belongings kept there...and no one bothered it. My tour guide said that the school and the city are so safe, that students leave books/computers out, go to class or out to lunch, and come back to them safe and unharmed. Everyone trusts each other, and they have the "all in this together" attitude. That's really cool.
I got to sit in on Professor Pratt's contracts class; she was very interesting, very animated, and really funny. They discussed three cases, a few students outlined the facts, pinpointed the issues, and then they all openly discussed both sides of the opinion. She used the socratic method but it wasn't intimidating; Im sure not every professor is like that but she was great. I would request her if you are attending class on the Carlisle campus next year. I also sat next to some really cool girls and a guy with a really sweet laptop...I dont know what it was, but it was tiny, silver, and cordless. If you're that guy, holla.
Ok, the big issue that has everyone up in arms: the dual campus system. I had the opportunity to meet with Barbara Guillaume, the director of admissions. The way she explained it to me was this (I'm paraphrasing but trying to be as truthful with the way she originally said things): it is still undecided whether Trickett Hall will be renovated or completely abolished to make room for a new law building and supporting buildings around it. Because the school has been added on to three times, the architects do not think the original Trickett Hall with be able to withstand the amount of renovation that needs to be done. Either way, the Carlisle students will be moved to a building near campus because they cannot attend class in that building while such serious renovations are being done. First, safety issues, but secondly because of the major disruptions they would experience. They have not signed with an interim building, but they are pretty sure they will be in a building about three miles from campus. All the offices, the library, and cafeteria will be moved there as well. They still recommend that everyone lives in Carlisle though because there isn't any housing around the interim building, but they may offer a shuttle service to get there for free.
The new Carlisle building should be completed in 2008, meaning our class will only spend a year or one semester in the new facility. Even so, they new building will launch Penn State forward in the rankings, building prestige long after we are graduated.
The University Park students (only 60 first years) will be housed in the Beam Building, which if you look at the psu website looks like a 1970's flashback. From the students I spoke with in Carlisle, it seems that the better alternative will be to attend in Carlisle because there is a lot of helpful interaction between 2nd and 3rd years that won't be possible in University Park. As cool as it would be to be around on football Saturdays and everything, it just seems like having all the resources in Carlisle, the students, and a quieter area would be more conducive to the needs of a law student. Ms. Guillaume assured me that they are doing everything they can to involve the class at UP with the Carlisle class, but naturally there will be some issues, especially for the first year of trying it.
If you are interested in a visit, the Comfort Suites is about three blocks from the law school, which was very convenient and seemed to be the nicest place in the area to stay. They offer an $86 per night Dickinson rate.
If you have questions, I can try to answer them!