Delaware Law School Professor of Law & Co-Founder of the Dignity Rights Project
Tell us about your most difficult challenge as a leader in higher education and/or as an advocate for dignity rights and how you overcame it.
DALY: I’ve been fortunate to have three careers at Delaware Law School – as a teacher, as an administrator and dean during a pivotal time for the school, and as a scholar and advocate for the right to human dignity. In all of these, the biggest challenge is to be clear about your purpose or purposes. Work is too hard if you don’t know why it’s important or if you don’t care about the result. Knowing your purpose gives people the fuel they need to invest their time, energies, and resources into the effort and helps them to feel good about being a part of project that is worthwhile. Purpose is a word that cuts in both directions at once: it may describe what motivates you but it also describes what you hope to accomplish, and how you hope to accomplish it.
As teachers, we include this in a syllabus: why should a student want to take this class and what are they likely to get out of it? When I became dean, the law school was in a pivotal moment and all of us (administration and staff, faculty, community stakeholders, and even our students) would have to invest in securing a bright future for the Law School. I wanted to make sure that everyone understood why that hard work was worthwhile: that it was necessary to ensure that Delaware Law School was going to be the best it could be so that we could continue to serve clients and the legal community in “the Delaware way.” Articulating that was one of the most difficult tasks, but when we understood it, it motivated us to do our best work and guided our process.
In my scholarship and advocacy work, I have worked on a particularly amorphous concept – the right to have one’s dignity respected – so defining what we mean by “human dignity” and why it’s important has been critical to working with colleagues, students, and partners around the world. I think about human dignity as the inherent and equal worth of every person, everywhere and that clear and simple statement helps me stay focused on my own work and helps me to focus the efforts of others.
Erin Daly is Professor of Law at Delaware Law School and the co-founder of the Dignity Rights Project. She served as Interim Dean and Vice Dean of the Law School in 2013-2015.
Professor Daly has written extensively on comparative constitutional law and transitional justice issues throughout the world. She is the author of Dignity Rights: Courts, Constitutions, and the Worth of the Human Person (U. Penn 2013), with a Foreword by former President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Aharon Barak. This is the first book to explore the constitutional law of dignity around the world. In Dignity Rights, Professor Daly shows how dignity has come not only to define specific interests like the right to humane treatment or to earn a living wage, but also to protect the basic rights of a person to control his or her own life and to live in society with others. She argues that, through the right to dignity, courts are redefining what it means to be human in the modern world. She is the co-author, with James R. May, of the first casebook on Dignity Rights (W.S. Hein, forthcoming 2020).
With Professor May, she has also co-authored or co-edited numerous volumes on environmental constitutionalism including Global Environmental Constitutionalism (Cambridge 2015), Implementing Environmental Constitutionalism (Cambridge 2018), Encyclopedia of Human Rights and the Environment: Legality, Indivisibility, Dignity and Geography (Edward Elgar 2019) and Handbook on Environmental Constitutionalism, and Compendium of Cases (3d edition, United Nations Environment 2019), used in judicial workshops.
Professor Daly‘s first book, Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground, (U. Penn 2006, 2010), was co-authored with South African scholar Jeremy Sarkin and with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Professor Daly serves as the Director of the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment, as the US National Correspondent for the Centre international de droit comparé de l’environnement (CIDCE) at Limoges, and as the Vice President for Institutional Development at the Université de la Fondation Aristide in Haiti.
She joined the faculty at Widener in 1993. She served as Interim Dean 2013-2015, Vice Dean 2013-2014, and Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development 2007-2011. She has directed summer programs in Sydney, Australia and Venice, Italy. She teaches in the areas of Dignity Rights, Constitutional Law, Comparative Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Administrative Law, Human Rights, and International Law. She received a B.A. from Wesleyan University, and her J.D. from the University of Michigan. She is currently a candidate for a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town.