“As a professor, I take pride in knowing that my animal law work – whether it’s teaching, scholarship, or service -- may help make the world a safer and more humane place for animals and people,” says Verne R. Smith
, Widener Law’s Assistant Dean for Business and Administration
. His passion for the subject arises out of the strong bond he has always felt with animals. Teaching animal law is not Assistant Dean Smith’s only job.
“As assistant dean, I manage a broad portfolio of administrative duties involving law school finances, budgets, facilities, and human resources, and no two days are ever quite alike,” says Smith, adding, “This permits me to draw upon my experience in business, labor relations, and management in a unique way that is simultaneously rewarding and challenging.” He became the Assistant Dean for Business and Administration shortly after arriving as a Legal Writing Professor in the Fall Semester of 2002.
Whether as a teacher or as an Administrator, Assistant Dean Smith is committed to keeping Widener Law a great place to work and learn. “As a professor, my number one goal is to encourage students to be critical thinkers - to challenge and test different thoughts and ideas, because that in my view is one of the most important qualifications for a successful lawyer,” he says, adding, “As an administrator, I take pride in helping to create a vibrant work and academic environment on both campuses. We seek always to invest our resources in the most effective and rewarding ways to create an environment that students, faculty, staff, friends, and alumni want to come to, and keep coming back to.”
Besides teaching Animal Law, a popular two-credit elective, Assistant Dean Smith also serves as the faculty advisor for the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
. “I’ve been honored to work with students who challenge the current legal status of animals and seek in various ways to change it, by sponsoring outside speakers or mounting awareness-raising campaigns about animal issues,” he says of the position. He also finds time to serve as the chair of the Delaware campus Green Committee. “The Green Committee seeks to find ways to position Widener Law as a leader in sustainability and the greening of American law schools. Recently, for example, Widener was named as a partner in the ABA-EPA Climate Challenge
, which recognizes Widener’s leadership in office paper management and recycling.”
Asked about what impact he would like his work to have, Assistant Dean Smith is quick to cite his hope that the law will evolve with regard to the treatment of animals. “Currently the legal infrastructure still hews to the centuries-old notion that animals are property – no different from a table, a lamp, or a chair. But the law is never static, and I believe that we as a society are currently in the process of articulating an emerging theory of ‘property’ that will accord a far different legal status to animals, one that will redefine the meaning of ‘ownership’ to greatly expand human duties and responsibilities toward non-human animals,” he says before concluding, “This new legal landscape will be shaped in large part by law students, including Widener’s, who are the legislators, lawyers, and judges of the future. I hope my work in animal law will in some way help in this process.”