With its full-time faculty cut in half from last year, the Portuguese program at Yale is relying on outside scholars to staff its introductory courses this semester.
When former Portuguese professor Paulo Moreira was declined tenure last year, Director of Undergraduate Studies David Jackson was left as the only ladder faculty member teaching Portuguese. With the additional departure of language lector Selma Vital, the language program now only has two of the four full-time positions it had last year.
This academic year, the department was able to tide over these difficulties with two Foreign Language Teaching Assistants, funded by Fulbright fellowships through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In recent years, Portuguese has only had one FLTA, but the number varies depending on enrollment and department staffing, according to Whitney Doel, the visiting scholars and academic resources coordinator at the MacMillan Center.
FLTAs Daniel Lucas Alves da Silva and Marcia Zanoteli will each teach elementary courses this semester and enroll in courses themselves through the Graduate School. Zanoteli noted that FLTAs will contribute beyond the classroom as well, by sharing Brazilian culture at lectures, conferences and workshops.
Still, Jackson noted that the FLTAs, while crucial for this semester, are merely a short-term solution to a long-standing problem of insufficient faculty in Portuguese. This semester, Jackson himself is teaching three classes — one more than he is required to teach — so that students interested in Portuguese will have enough course offerings available to pursue it as a major.
The department is sorely in need of a new assistant professor and at least one additional language lector, he said. Spanish professor Anibal Gonzalez also noted that Portuguese is “very shorthanded right now.”
By contrast, Princeton’s Portuguese program has two tenured faculty members, one associate professor and one full professor, as well as a senior lecturer and three other lecturers. At Harvard, there are two non-ladder positions, one ladder position and a search for another ladder position ongoing.
“We want to be able to satisfy the needs of all the Yale undergraduates who might want to learn Portuguese,” Jackson said. “But we need the structure to be able to put it in place.”
Despite several departures, there are no active searches for ladder or non-ladder faculty in the Spanish and Portuguese Department, according to Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler. But Gendler noted that if additional non-ladder teaching assistance is required for the spring semester, the University will “of course seek to hire additional qualified instructors.”
The situation is further complicated by the Spanish and Portuguese Department’s climate review, which took place this past March following the distribution of an anonymous letter alleging that one member of the department’s leadership engaged in sexual harassment.
University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, whose office is overseeing the review, did not return request for comment about its expected completion date. But several professors in the department, including chair Rolena Adorno, said they do not know the status of the review, and some added that interviews were ongoing as recently as last month.
Some professors in the department speculated that no hiring will take place until the review has been completed.
This semester, there are also FLTAs in languages including Hindi, Indonesian and Turkish. There is one FLTA for each language except Portuguese.