Students start petition to reinstate philosophy lecturer

Dr Jay Shaw, centre, a lecturer in non-Western philosophy, says he has been forced to retire from his job at Victoria ...
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Dr Jay Shaw, centre, a lecturer in non-Western philosophy, says he has been forced to retire from his job at Victoria University. Students Thomas Martin, left, Alexander Janet, Joseph Carlson and Thomas Prout, have started a petition to get him back.

A much-loved Victoria University lecturer is bowing out – though not without a last ditch effort to stay.

History, philosophy, political science and international relations associate professor Dr Jay Shaw will teach his last class in November, after retiring from full-time employment in 2011.

However, Shaw, who had been on fixed-term teaching contracts for the past four years, said he was forced into retirement and did not want to leave.

The 74-year-old even offered to teach the courses for free.

"I was told they couldn't renew my contract and I had to leave at the end of the year. I told them I was willing to teach without any pay, but I got a negative reply."

Shaw was upset he had to leave, as he felt he still had a lot to offer to future generations, he said.

He hoped his students could help reinstate him through a petition.

International student Alexander Janet, who initiated the petition, said he was baffled by Shaw's departure.

"[Shaw] is a treasure for students that cherish philosophy, education and more importantly a comparative approach that sees all philosophy as equally important."

Janet said it would be a big loss to future philosophy students if Shaw was not reinstated.

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"We honestly think it would be an asset lost for the students. I'm surprised they let someone go who is so passionate, who is so willing to give so much. It's very sad."

A university spokeswoman confirmed Shaw's contract had come to an end, but would not comment on the specifics of Shaw's employment, citing privacy reasons.

The date for a person to retire from Victoria University was always reached by mutual agreement, she said.

Shaw, an Indian philosopher, is believed to be the first in New Zealand to receive a festchrift – a prestigious academic award where a compilation of articles by leading international scholars honouring one's academic contribution are written.

Shaw has studied and taught at American universities, presented more than 100 papers, written 11 books and represented New Zealand at the World Parliament of Religion in 1993.

He is also the founder of many societies in New Zealand and India promoting philosophy and values and is proud of student assessments at Victoria and the University of Hawaii, which have rated his teaching as "perfect".

One of Shaw's former students, Emerson Stirling, said he stood tall among her many lecturers as one of, if not the best, educator during her time at Victoria University.

"He was certainly the most dedicated to his students, prepared to go far beyond the requirements of office hours to receive questions at all times and work around his students availability, hosting numerous study groups where there were no tutorials, offering up his own time.

"His willingness to go beyond speaks volumes to his character as a person and as an educator."

As well as support from past and present students, Shaw has also heard from admirers from as far away as California.

San Jose State University associate professor of philosophy Anand Vaidya said he was sad to hear Shaw was leaving.

Vaidya described Shaw as one of the most innovative and important philosophers of the later half of the 20th century.

"Although at his age it might be hard to believe, he is doing groundbreaking work and inspiring many new philosophers to travel down new roads in global philosophy that will bring greater harmony to the world."

Shaw said he was blown away by all the support. He vowed he would continue to fight his situation with the university.

 - Stuff

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