Kenneth David Jackson, professor and director of undergraduate studies for Portuguese, has spent the past 21 years building the Portuguese program at Yale. He was able to convince Yale College to approve the Portuguese undergraduate major in 1996, and he and his wife will take Yale students to Brazil next summer as part of the eight-week Portuguese summer language program, now in its 14th year.

But for Jackson, the future of the major and Yale’s Portuguese program as a whole is unclear. Since the Spanish and Portuguese Department denied former Portuguese professor Paulo Moreira tenure in 2015, Jackson has been the sole professor of Portuguese at the University. Jackson, who already teaches what he described as “an overload” of courses, will be the only permanent faculty member teaching Portuguese once longtime lecturer Marta Almeida retires at the end of this academic year.

“The problem right now is, of course, that I am not able to tell [students interested in the major] they will accumulate enough credits to get the degree,” Jackson said in an interview with the News.

He added that he alone cannot teach enough classes to cover the required courses for two Spanish and Portuguese graduate students interested in a doctoral program that includes a combination of Luso-Brazilian and Spanish and Spanish-American literatures.

Yale’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese is still in the process of recovering from a 2015 controversy involving accusations of sexual harassment and power abuse, which ultimately resulted in an administrative review that concluded that the department fostered a climate of “fear and intimidation.” An eight-person oversight committee from outside the department was assembled to address the power abuse accusations.

Kevin Ennis ’17, who majored in Portuguese and will continue his studies in a doctoral program at Brown University next year, said it is important that Yale address the shortage of faculty members teaching Portuguese at the introductory and advanced levels. Jackson will not work at Yale forever, Ennis added.

In the Spanish and Portuguese Department — which he calls “the department of mostly Spanish and a little Portuguese” — Portuguese is often “left behind,” he said.

According to Chair of the Spanish and Portuguese Department, Howard Bloch, who is a French professor, the department is currently in the process of hiring a tenured professor that will teach Spanish, Portuguese or both. Bloch would not comment further, though, citing a departmental policy against discussing personnel decisions involving individual candidates or faculty members.

Both Bloch and the Spanish and Portuguese Director of Graduate Studies Rudiger Campe, who teaches Germanic and German Studies, are external to the department.

Jackson told the News that last year, the department voted to hire a lecturer in Spanish and a lecturer in Portuguese and advertised openings for the positions. But Jackson said the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office cancelled the search for a Portuguese lecturer, although the department did hire an additional Spanish lecturer. However, Tamar Gendler, Dean of the FAS, told the News that the FAS Teaching Resource Advisory Committee did in fact approve a search for a full-time lecturer in Portuguese during the 2016-17 academic year, which was unsuccessful.

“The FAS Dean’s Office then worked closely with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese to ensure that the teaching of Portuguese language courses continued without interruption in 2017-18. We continue to work closely with the department and are confident of the same for 2018-19,” Gendler wrote in an e-mail to the News.

In addition to Almeida, the Portuguese language sequence has two other temporary lecturers, one a Fulbright language teacher and the other a visiting lecturer. The maximum number of sections allotted to the program is three introductory courses and two intermediate courses each semester. But this semester, because of staff limitations and lower enrollment in beginning Portuguese, the undergraduate program is offering only one intermediate program — with more than 20 students currently enrolled — and two beginning classes. And unlike last year, the language program will not offer intensive beginning Portuguese next semester.

Ennis said all Level 5 Portuguese classes he took in his junior and senior years were taught by either Almeida or Jackson. Still, he praised the small Portuguese program, adding that Jackson taught far more classes than some of the other faculty members in the Spanish and Portuguese Department. This semester, Jackson is teaching one undergraduate and two graduate courses.

“It showed that there was a true commitment to teaching and keeping the program alive,” Ennis said.

All majors in Latin American Studies take Portuguese at Yale.

Adelaide Feibel |