“A vibrant legal education requires a physical environment that enhances connection, community engagement, and opportunity.” –Dean Hannah Arterian
With the catalyst of a generous $15 million dollar gift, it was the right time. With the growth of the scenic Syracuse University campus and its commitment to legal education, it was the right place. And Dineen Hall is the perfect synergy of time, space, and energy that brings SU College of Law into a new century, with a new outlook, the latest technology, expanded faculty, and a promise to further extend our interactive, personal approach to the teaching of law.
"Law school is a transformative experience, as legal education is an investment in a lifetime career advantage - an ability to analyze, to organize complexity. Part of what makes a legal education so amazing is it's adaptability. You can take the toolbox anywhere." --Dean Hannah Arterian
Largely through the support of Bob Dineen L’66, who was one of the first alumni I met with after I became dean. At my request, he took on the challenge of creating a strategic plan to create our new Board of Advisors. He is an incredible person and has since been a dedicated member of that board.
We had been talking for years about re-doing our existing facility. That renovation and architectural plan turned out to be much more costly than anticipated. It was decided we would be better off starting from scratch. This also coincided with the University’s development of the west side of campus, so there was some synergy there.
As a board member, Bob has been well aware of all this. His family has deep ties to the legal profession. His parents, Robert Emmet Dineen L’24 and Carolyn Bareham Dineen L’32, were both College of Law graduates. His sisters, Kathryn and Carolyn, are also attorneys and Carolyn is a judge on the Federal Court of Appeals judge in Houston. Additionally, I think the location resonated with the family because their parents had lived in that area, formerly known as the Swamp.
Bob has been involved in strategic planning for the College for years but I had no idea he and his family were considering something of this magnitude. The reality is that he called me on the phone in April 2010 and said, “I have something to tell you. The family is going to give $15 million for the building.”
This has not been a great time to be fundraising. Obviously, there are real challenges because these are insecure financial times. While we had the University go-ahead to explore designing a new home for the law school, having this substantial gift made proceeding with that plan a reality. Additionally, I think that location resonated with the family because their parents had lived in that area formally known as the Swamp.
The Dineen gift itself was in part a challenge gift—We needed to match $10.5 million of it within five years. A year later, we’re close to having met that. That’s pretty incredible. I am so overwhelmed and impressed by the support of our alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.
MacNaughton Hall is a wonderful building, it’s just not meeting our student and faculty needs. No one understands that and
is more supportive than Don MacNaughton L’68. MacNaughton Hall was named for his mother, Winifred MacNaughton.
MacNaughton Hall provided very nice classroom and courtroom space, a law clinic, and room for student activity. But it did not create a cohesive building that promotes community. We have a collection of spaces with people siloed in separate sections of the building. Our faculty has also grown by one-third in the last decade, so we have outgrown that space. Classroom needs have also changed, largely because of the use of technology.
We will all be in one building, which is still difficult for
many people to grasp. That alone is going to make a
huge difference in the law school as an institution and
a community. The building has been designed with a lot
of communal space, both formal and informal, which is something we never had before. There will be a café. There will be a celebratory space. A centerpiece of the building is
a combination auditorium and ceremonial courtroom, built specifically to accommodate activities we do as a law school.
The classrooms will be better, mostly because our current classrooms were built at a time when people were not using technology as they are today. Students didn’t use to bring laptops to class. I’ve been very insistent on the depth of the desks and tables so that students have adequate room for their laptops. All of these rooms will have the capability of broadcasting and videotaping. The classroom sizes will be different. There will be many more small classrooms. And handicap accessibility will be vastly improved.
We will also have many more study rooms for students, but we’re going to do it in a way that is multifunctional. For instance, both the law school clinic and career services have a lot of interview rooms. The plan here is to create rooms with two-sided entry– a door from the hallway into the room and a door from the clinic into the room. When the clinic is not using those rooms, they are open from the outside. The space will be multi-use but in a very controlled fashion.
I’m hoping it will develop a much stronger sense of the collaborative and connected nature of legal education in preparation for whatever people think they want to go out and do with a law degree. I think that will happen both because of the interaction people can have within the new spaces and because of the way that the classrooms will integrate technology, whether it is broadcasting a lecture to another area, or archiving lectures. I also hope the new building will help us better socialize our students as to the values of the profession, which is difficult to do in a space where it feels like everyone is in a silo.
I’m convinced we have the absolute best senior staff that any law school has. These individuals are a tremendous asset to students, but they are physically isolated. Optimally, that shouldn’t be the way legal education operates. The students need to be able to work with our administrators and share information from the time they are recruited. Dineen Hall will facilitate more interaction and community at every level.
The bashing legal education is taking right now is, in my view, very ill informed. It is extraordinarily expensive to provide what we do for students—services and curriculum offerings that simply did not exist when I was in law school. Some of this is what is expected by students today and some is demanded by our accreditors. When I went to law school, the class was 160 people—80 in one room and 80 in another. Today we provide a more comprehensive experience. We have legal writing—which requires a small setting and faculty members. Skills training. Career services. A law clinic. A clinical faculty member may only have 8 students for a year. Law school today is very personnel driven.
If I could figure out a way to make it cheaper and still give it real quality, I would. There’s no question that cost
is deeply connected to what you’re trying to deliver. Our biggest cost is our faculty, but they are unquestionably also our greatest asset. If you’re not trying to deliver a robust education inculcated with professional values, you could probably get rid of a bunch of people. I don’t think that’s what we want at Syracuse, but that may not be the case elsewhere.
At Syracuse, we’re completely tuition driven. The facility issue is a secondary issue in terms of cost. People think that building all these fancy things is what drives up the cost. Not really. In our case, we’re doing it because this has been an ongoing issue and it’s the right thing to do to create the right environment.
A legal education has tremendous value. The problem is people viewing law school as a short-term means to get their money back. A legal education is a capital investment that can provide tools for a lifelong career that’s going to change over time. I think people with a legal education have an advantage in any situation. Their ability to analyze, to organize complexity, will make them in many cases, if not the smartest person in the room, certainly the most capable.
It is a transformative education. Obviously there are reasons for law school beyond just learning how to think, but your extrinsic motivation shouldn’t be simply to make a lot of money. This is about making a capital investment in what you can be, what you can do over the course of your life. Most people have no idea when they come to law school where it’s going to take them. They may think they know, but they change. Part of what makes a legal education so amazing is its adaptability. You can take the toolbox anywhere. If you’ve got the personal skillset, you can be successful.
This is a tremendous time for the College of Law. We are fortunate to have a chancellor and vice chancellor that believe a quality law school is important for Syracuse University. They want the law school to be great and to have the accouterments to make a statement. Their faith
in us has been tremendous. There are a number of law school graduates on the SU Board of Trustees, which is
a tremendous statement of support in and of itself. Their presence shows a great legal education and the people who have it can be an important asset to the University in both their governance and their advisement.
No doubt about it - this is the best place to be on campus! Dineen Hall is not only part of the SU campus' westward expansion, but it's close to everything, including the newest - and coolest - student housing available. Campus West is a complex with all the amenities, including a fitness room, and units have been set aside for law students. You're an easy walk to the shops and restaurants on Marshall Street, the Carrier Dome is right up the street for the best in college sports, and if you're in the mood for a night downtown in Syracuse's Armory Square district, that's close by, too. It's also convenient to major travel hubs and interstate highways. And if you're pursuing the great value of a joint degree program, Dineen Hall and Campus West are just a short walk from the nationally recognized joint degree schools on the main SU campus.
College of Law (current, through Fall 2014)
Marley Education Center
Life Sciences Building
Campus West Housing (opened Fall 2012)
Dineen Hall (opening Fall 2014)