Miami, Fla. – Four former professors from Florida Memorial University have filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the school claiming they were let go because of their ages, race, gender and national origin.

The university, the only historically Black college or university (HBCU) in Miami-Dade County, had to cut 16 degree programs and eliminate some positions to keep its accreditation for the 2022 semester to address its financial and budget problems, after being placed on yearlong probation in July by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Richard Yaklich, Abbass Entessari, William Hopper, and Telahun Desalegne filed their claims in February and are seeking a decision on whether they were terminated based on discrimination, according to their attorney Randy Fliescher.

Fliescher told the South Florida Times that the discrimination charges are a prelude to a lawsuit. He said federal and state law requires that discrimination cases be filed with the EEOC before taking legal action, and that the professors are seeking to get their jobs back.

Officials at Florida Memorial University couldn’t be reached for comment.


"I don’t believe the university cut the programs but that’s what it told my clients," Fliesher said. "I don’t believe the school eliminated positions and departments. It’s a lie. We are talking about math, chemistry, business, economics and music. These are programs students are studying."

Fleischer said Hopper, 96, the school’s former chemistry and environment professor, is claiming age discrimination for his department being on the chopping block and his dismissal.

Fleischer said Entessari was the school’s dean of business when the program was cut and believes his age of 72, race and national origin was the reason he was let go. Entessari, of Irainian descent, had been teaching at the school since 1989.

Fleisher said Yaklich, 57, who is White, was the director of assessment and had been a teacher there since 2001.

Fleisher said he filed a discrimination claim based on race, age and gender, and believes the termination was in retaliation for complaining to school officials over being passed over for the college’s humanitarian chairmanship last year in favor of a Black female.

Yaklich wrote the university in a letter to complain about the matter. The university’s response was that discrimination wasn’t a factor he was passed over for the position.

Desalegne ,74, who associate director for the mathematics program before it was eliminated, filed an age discrimination case against the school. He has been teaching at the school since 1985, Fleisher said.

Sharee Gilbert, director of communications and marketing for the university told New Times in a prepared statement that the decision to eliminate 18 positions, including staff, administrators, tenured and nontenured faculty, and vacant positions, was not an easy one.

Sixteen degree programs in the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education will also be discontinued.

FMU, which was founded in 1879, currently has 1,097 students, 999 of whom are undergraduates, according to the college’s website.


Gilbert says fewer than five students graduated with degrees from the discontinued programs, which include English, engineering/physics, mathematics, sociology, accounting, and marketing, over a five-year period.

"In order to protect the legacy and sustainability of FMU, these decisions had to be made. Data proved it to not be of benefit to keep faculty and staff on and to keep programs open that were underperforming," Gilbert said. "Decisions such as these are not easy to make. The decisions were a part of a data-driven process, which in turn created data-driven results and were not personal in any way."

After its sanction, FMC was forced to cut programs, salaries and positions by at least 10 percent based on the recommendations of a 12-member task force. The school’s board of trustees approved the task force’s recommendations in late 2021, but didn’t reveal which programs or positions would be eliminated at the time.