International language programming will end at McTyeire International House as of Fall 2022. As part of a wider plan to “enhance” language education at Vanderbilt, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese will also no longer accept new graduate students.
McTyeire residents were notified of the changes to the hall in a Jan. 12 email from G.L. Black, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students—two days before the university announced the plans to the general public. In place of McTyeire’s international programming, other language initiatives will be offered within the residential college system. All students, regardless of where they will live in Fall 2022, will be able to participate in the new program.
“We want to try to create opportunities so students and, frankly, faculty who want to participate in the programming don’t have to actually have to live in a particular space to be able to participate in it,” Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of Residential Faculty Vanessa Beasley said.
McTyeire will continue to house upperclassmen, but its dining hall will be closed, per Black. There are no current plans for the dining hall’s use in Fall 2022, according to Moore. Beasley said the goal is to replicate the culinary offerings of McTyeire at other dining halls. However, she stated that this plan is contingent on Campus Dining’s capabilities. Per Moore, the former McTyeire dining hall workers will be reassigned to other Vanderbilt dining halls.
According to Moore, the College of Arts and Science is investing “a great deal” into language education. He said the goals of restructuring language education are to make it more inclusive—by adding more languages and allowing more students to participate—and to improve its quality.
“There are changes to various departments and things going on, and this endeavor [changes to McTyeire] is a part of that,” Moore said. “This is a part of a bigger attempt to look at our language education offerings in the broadest sense.”
Beasley specifically mentioned the intent to include more students who are native speakers of foreign languages. She explained that McTyeire currently imposes limits on the number of native speakers of foreign languages allowed to live in the house.
“We have staff members on our campus who are non-native English speakers. Are we meeting their needs?” Beasley said. “There’s an upside there to be really inclusive.”
Moore, Beasley, Black and Assistant Provost for Residential Education and Associate Dean for Residential Colleges Jill Stratton said the administration is still deciding what the new language program will look like.
“We don’t know what that’s going to look like right now, and all sorts of options could be on the table,” Moore said. “Dean Geer is going to form a committee of faculty—with lots of student input and maybe student members—I don’t know, to talk about this. It will be convened relatively soon.”
Stratton said she sees this lack of a formalized plan as an opportunity for community members to have a say in the new initiatives.
“We’re excited, and we don’t know the exact, but that’s actually a good thing because it leaves room for imagination and possibility and collaboration with students,” Stratton said. “Let’s not forget about the greater Nashville community. Whether there are opportunities for service around language and Immersion and what would it look like for research to be happening in those spaces.”
Black said there are no immediate plans to dissolve other Living Learning Communities on campus. However, four Mayfield lodges will be used as quarantine housing in Fall 2022, per a Jan. 13 email Director of Housing Assignments Alison Matarese sent to The Hustler.
“There are not immediate plans relating to other Living Learning Communities right now,” Black said. “This was more tied specifically to programming at McTyeire and the intersection of residential colleges and the College of Arts and Science, particularly related to language education.”
McTyeire traditionally offered programming in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish, as well as an International Interest Hall for those interested in international affairs. The hall held speaker events called “fireside chats.” Meals—which students were required to attend four nights per week—are also currently held in the McTyeire Dining Hall during which students converse in their target language. Additionally, a faculty member lived on each hall. Per Moore, these faculty members will continue their usual work within their departments.
Despite a Fall 2021 VSG resolution calling for the name of McTyeire Hall to be changed, Black said the hall’s name will remain the same. The building’s namesake, Vanderbilt co-founder Holland Nimmons McTyeire, openly endorsed slavery.
Moore did not elaborate on the decision to end the graduate programs in Spanish and Portuguese. Andrés Zamora, chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment.
Student and faculty reactions
McTyeire President and sophomore Lee Cameron said he was not expecting the news.
“Like a lot of the people at McTyeire, I was very disappointed,” Cameron said. “Seeing [McTyeire] leave really hurt.”
Another resident of McTyeire, senior Morgan Elrod-Erickson, told The Hustler that the changes coming to McTyeire are “tragic,” speaking of the unique community built in the hall.
“I’ve spoken to several students for whom McTyeire is the only space on campus where they feel they really belong,” Elrod-Erickson said in a message to The Hustler. “It is a home to students in a way no other dorm is.”
Anja Bandas is retiring at the end of this academic year after 25 years of leading McTyeire. In a Jan 12. email to McTyeire residents obtained by The Hustler, she similarly expressed her pride surrounding McTyeire’s community.
“In my own experience, McTyeire has been a true example of friendship, joy and the ability to embrace differences,” the email reads. “You could call it a little model world.”
Cameron also commented on the hall’s unique sense of community and the bond he shares with the other residents of McTyeire.
“When everyone shares the passion and lives together, you never really feel isolated,” Cameron said.
In her email, Bandas additionally expressed her sadness surrounding the decision but also optimism for the future. She did not respond to The Hustler’s request for further comment.
“This is an email I hoped, I would not have to write,” the email reads. “The way I see it, McTyeire is not lost. It’s ours to keep, as are the friendships we have made here.”
Elrod-Erickson highlighted how he has been exposed to different cultures as a resident of McTyeire, praising the current program for its diversity.
“McTyeire represents a crucial space for multicultural exchange,” Elrod-Erickson said. “By its very nature, it is a space where cultures collide: not only does American culture meet those of other nations, but those other cultures collide with each other.”
Like many McTyeire residents, Miguel Herranz, Department of Spanish and Portuguese Graduate Student Council representative, expressed in an email to The Hustler that he was dissatisfied with the decision to end the graduate programs in his department.
“I think it is unfortunate that the college decided to end the program,” Herranz said. “The last cohort of students came in 2019, so for the last few years, especially with the pandemic, it has been short of a ghost program.”
Herranz also stated that graduate students traditionally teach a significant portion of classes at Vanderbilt, and he is unsure who will teach the classes in the department in the future.
“With this decision, it is also uncertain who is going to teach those classes, given that there have been no hirings over the last years,” Herranz said.
As of print, Vanderbilt’s job board does not have any open listings for faculty in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
Per Herranz, graduate students in the department are already facing a challenging job market post-graduation, especially with the program being dissolved.
“Since the college decided to finish our program, I think they should at least guarantee a sixth year of funding for those of us who had to suffer the pandemic and now have to face a very restricted job market,” Herranz said.
Currently, there are no plans to phase out other graduate language programs, per an email from Moore.
Beasley, Moore, Black and Stratton all acknowledged the disappointment many students feel because of the changes. They urged students to communicate to university administration about their experiences in McTyeire by emailing Black by Feb. 1.
“I get how beloved and important [McTyeire] was,” Beasley said. “Let’s talk about how we can take the parts you love and make them a part of the new program.”