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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

‘You can’t help but feel underappreciated’: Tenured professor Neha Vora leaving Lafayette

Neha Vora is one of at least two tenured professors to leave the college this semester. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)

After over 10 years teaching at Lafayette and recently receiving full professorship, professor of anthropology Neha Vora is leaving her position. Her contract ends June 30, after which she will move to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates and begin a position as a professor at the American University of Sharjah.

Vora said that while the new job has its appeal, she is mainly leaving because she is dissatisfied with Lafayette.

“The position is a Gulf studies position … where I do my research. It has a very international student body. I’m comfortable there, and it pays really well,” Vora said. “And also, I’m not a fan of being here. So it worked out.”

Vora said that one of her main reasons for leaving – and one of her major dissatisfactions with Lafayette and higher education more generally – is the hierarchical nature of academia.

“I think that once I got to the side of tenure, I just really started noticing much more like the academic hierarchies. And, you know, I didn’t want to be contributing to them in such a way,” Vora said. “I feel like in the United States, it’s just so much more cutthroat in terms of academia … Rank becomes something that you really internalize.”

Even though she is staying in the field of academia, Vora said that the system in the United States is one built upon such hierarchies.

“I mean, not to say that I won’t be [participating] by being in an academic space somewhere else,” Vora continued. “But I think that there’s something very specific about United States higher education that I’m just getting very tired of.” 

Vora was similarly dissatisfied with the alleged devaluation of professors in the United States. Even though she is at the top of her field, she noted that she still lives month to month.

“You can’t help but feel underappreciated. And then I’m making so much more than all [the contingent faculty] and I have job security,” Vora said. “So I think that’s how academia is kind of like a gaslight because it leads you to think you can’t complain because you have more privilege than other people. But no, we can all complain because the whole system is fucked up.”

Vora is looking forward to going abroad, as “people get paid at a level that is actually worth their skill set” at her new institution.

Specifically within Lafayette, Vora pointed to the predominately white student body and the lack of interest in the subjects she teaches as another motivator for her when she was beginning to look elsewhere.

“As much as I do like the students here, it does get to be a lot of effort to teach predominantly white students. I have trouble even filling a class on the Middle East because there’s just not a critical mass of interest here,” Vora said.

She also credited COVID-19 for much of the alleged dispassion of the student body, something that made teaching unenjoyable for Vora. 

“If I’m in the class not enjoying teaching, and they’re in the class not enjoying being in the class, then why are any of us in the class?” she said.

She contrasted this with her previous experience teaching in the Persian Gulf, and noted that the more diverse student body allows for more engaged classroom participation, something she is looking forward to.

“I’ve taught in the Gulf before, and what I really like about it is that the students are very engaged,” Vora said. “You’ll never find a more diverse classroom than a classroom in the Gulf.”

Vora is further excited to be able to live in the field site of her anthropological research.

“Lafayette doesn’t really provide funding for doing research overseas … And then the summer is the time that most people would go and do their research, but the Gulf in the summer is unlivable, so it’s really not conducive to doing research then,” Vora said. “So this will be really good because I can do research like on a random afternoon.”

When asked if she would miss anything from Lafayette, Vora said, “nothing really.”

“I do like my department, they’ve been very supportive,” she said. “I think that if I didn’t have such a great department, I think I wouldn’t have lasted this long here because the general climate of the campus itself is not very welcoming, or pleasant for pretty much most of the faculty of color that I’ve spoken to.”

Vora said that her departure is not isolated, but instead part of a much larger pattern at Lafayette in which other female professors of color are leaving. Angela Bell of the psychology department and Khadijah Mitchell of the biology department, who were both tenure-track, both also decided that they will leave the college at the end of this semester.

“I think one of the things that really circulates here, and I’ve already heard it in reference to other women of color who have left or are leaving, is that everybody else here wants to understand it through an individualistic reason,” Vora said. “But they wouldn’t even be looking to leave if they felt like this was the place they wanted it to be and they felt supported here. So when you have a pattern of people leaving and those people fall into particular demographics, then you have a problem … Lafayette College should definitely be thinking about why they are failing to retain so many people of color.”

Correction 05/05/2023: A previous version of this article stated that psychology professor Angela Bell was a tenured professor. Bell is a tenure-track professor.

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Emma Chen
Emma Chen, Managing Editor
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  • A

    Aliana MedirattaMay 11, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    I took a class with Professor Vora last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially given how much she clearly cared about the subject matter and her extensive experience in the field. It is truly tragic any time an educator who loves what they study and loves to work with students is forced to leave their position because they are undervalued by the institution they work for. Individual passion can’t fix systemic injustices.

  • A

    Ariel Haber-Fawcett '24May 7, 2023 at 7:26 pm

    We lost Professors Aseel Bala, Khadijah Mitchell, and Neha Vora all in one year. All women of color and all phenomenal professors – Lafayette’s very best. This lack of retentions is shameful and embarrassing for Lafayette. Pay professors more and admit a more diverse group students.