Qi Xu

Multiple graduate students have accepted offers of admission from Yale’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese after two years of limited or no enrollment.

Five of the six students to whom the department made offers this year have accepted, and the sixth has until April 15 to respond, according to professor of Japanese Studies and Director of Graduate Studies of Spanish and Portuguese Edward Kamens ’74 GRD ’82. No new students entered the program during the 2015–16 year, and one graduate student who was offered admission for fall 2016 eventually entered the program in January 2017, Kamens said. Department faculty interviewed said the reversal of the negative trend may be due to changes to the department’s resources and efforts to make the department more welcoming.

“Graduate students were attracted to the faculty in Spanish and Portuguese, which is among the best anywhere; by the intellectual and other resources of Yale, which is an extraordinary place to be a graduate student; by the simple outreach of arranging on-campus visits to meet the faculty, fellow graduate students and staff, who worked together as a team to attract thus far five of the six candidates to whom we offered a place, with one yet to pronounce,” said department chair and professor of French Howard Bloch. “This is a superb record for any department.”

The department made its six offers in mid-February, Kamens said. He added that two of the five admitted students who attended the program’s visiting day in early March had already accepted offers, and the other three made their decisions afterwards.

“If they had any misgivings, these must have been adequately addressed in conversations and encounters they had during their visit,” Kamens said.

However, departmental discussions about admissions are kept confidential, according to Associate Dean of Graduate Education Allegra di Bonaventura.

Kamens said he believed this year’s bigger cohort of graduate students might be the result of several changes in the department. He added that a number of issues of concern to graduate students in recent years have been addressed, such as the clarification of advising guidelines, and that the department’s former and current chairs have worked to improve its resources and policies surrounding travel for research and conference attendance.

“Overall, I think the department atmosphere is very welcoming and positive,” Kamens said.

Changes to the department and its leadership come on the heels of a March 2015 controversy stemming from accusations of abuse of power and sexual harassments by some senior faculty members that resulted in an administrative review finding a climate of “fear and intimidation.”

As Spanish and Portuguese students only take courses in their first two years, no graduate courses were offered last year.

Still, Kamens said faculty members have been teaching and working with graduate students “continuously” during this period. He added that five students are completing their dissertations this term and are doing well in their job searches. Faculty members are eager to start working with new students, Kamens said.

The number of incoming graduate students will not impact hiring in the department, Kamens said. However, he said that teaching is part of their program in the third, fourth and sometimes sixth years, meaning that these new graduate students will ultimately be teaching Yale undergraduates.

“We know that these students will be part of the team of instructors who will be teaching Yale College students as Yale College’s population grows over the next several years,” Kamens said. “This in itself is an exciting prospect for everyone.”

The Spanish and Portuguese department made offers to six graduate students in 2016, though none accepted these offers.