After decades of commitment to the field of Philosophy, Dr Jay Shaw has been told his services are no longer required at Victoria.
An associate professor in History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, Shaw was told by the Pro Vice Chancellor of Humanities and Social Sciences Jennifer Windsor in April that his contract would soon be up and he would need to give up his office.
Dr Shaw retired in 2011 and has been working on fixed-term contracts for the past four years. His current contract expires at the end of the year, and the University has decided not to renew it.
Dr Shaw reportedly tried to speak to his superiors about the decision, but did not receive a response for two months. In June, he was told that office space was limited and there was no more room for him.
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Shaw responded by offering to share an office space and work without pay under an honorary title, but this was rejected.
Dr Shaw has received excellent student feedback throughout his time at Victoria, and teaches Victoria’s only course in non-Western philosophy.
Past and present students of Shaw’s have stood up for the lecturer, setting up an online petition to reinstate the man they call “a pioneer”. So far the petition has collected over 200 signatures.
Vic student Martyn Hall has also sent a letter to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade Brown and the staff at Vic to fight what he calls Shaw’s “baffling dismissal”.
Hall said it had been a “sincere privilege to be in [Shaw’s], possibly final, Non-Western Philosophy course”.
VUWSA have also supported the cause. President Rick Zwaan said it was “disappointing that the University is trying to push out an esteemed academic” and expressed his hopes that the faculty would “revisit the situation”.
Dr Shaw himself claimed to feel “overwhelmed by the response from students”.
If Shaw is turned away this November he may be forced to relocate, along with his daughter and granddaughter whom he currently looks after.
For more information and access to the petition in support of Dr Shaw, go to: www.toko.org.nz/petitions/the-right-to-follow-your-passion#
About Dr Shaw
First educated in Calcutta, Shaw earned his PhD at Rice University in Houston, Texas in 1969. His scholarly work includes 11 books and over 90 papers on Western, Indian and comparative philosophy.
Shaw has taught at Universities in Calcutta, Alabama and Hawaii with countless guest lectures at universities across several nations. He is also the first New Zealand-based philosopher to be honoured with a “Festschrift”, a book honouring an academic’s work and one of the highest academic accolades a person can receive.