Student Chapter Spotlight

Chicago-Kent College of Law – Getting an Animal Law Course Added to the Curriculum

Until recently, there was not an animal law course being taught at Chicago-Kent College of Law; the Chicago-Kent Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter made it their goal to change this.

Using a variety of advocacy efforts, including petitioning, raising awareness, and networking with interested faculty, the chapter was able to convince the administration to add an animal law class to the curriculum. With the addition of this course, which will be offered for the first time in spring semester 2008, animal law courses are now being offered at all of the Chicago area law schools.

The Chicago-Kent Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter started with a student petition, printed off the Animal Legal Defense Fund website, and circulated it throughout the school. Students were urged to sign it if they thought an animal law course would be a valuable addition to the law school curriculum.

After obtaining approximately 250 signatures, the Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter members brought the petition to the Dean of Students, who was very receptive to the idea. Students were assured that the course would be offered if a suitable instructor were found.

After several months with no word about the course, Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter members began to seek out potential instructors on their own. Among those who were contacted were local animal law attorneys, professors at surrounding schools, and Chicago-Kent professors who showed an interest in Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter activities or animals.

Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter members once again brought the proposal to the Dean of Students, this time with a list of well-suited instructors. The meeting was a success and as a result, Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter members are looking forward to taking the course in spring semester 2008. The course will be taught by Keith Harley, a well respected environmental law professor and head of the Environmental Law Legal Clinic at Chicago-Kent.

According to Chicago-Kent Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter president Heather Owen, establishing a contact with Professor Harley proved to be an extremely important aspect of creating the course. Not only did his willingness to teach the course help it to be offered, but he also signed her on as a research assistant to help mold the course to fit the students’ interests.

By establishing a link to the Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter members, the course has expanded to include a variety of topics that represent student interest as well as current developments in animal law. In addition to creating a new course, Professor Harley has offered to take on animal related cases in the environmental law clinic, if interest is shown.

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