Shamed lecturer tenders resignation from University, new online attack on Muslim student

University lecturer who attacked transgender activist and student describes veiled Muslim student as a ‘mummy’ and ‘potential radical’

Stephen Florian was one of the speakers at the recent rally held by the right-wing and Islamophobic ‘patriots’
Stephen Florian was one of the speakers at the recent rally held by the right-wing and Islamophobic ‘patriots’

A right-wing University lecturer who came under heavy criticism after attacking an activist and student for being transgender has tendered his resignation from lecturing duties with immediate effect.

Dr Stephen Florian, who lectures in Spanish and Latin American Studies, tendered his resignation following a public apology made over the weekend. "The University has taken note of these developments and accepted his resignation. The University of Malta once again underlines its commitment to embracing diversity and to providing a welcoming learning environment to more than 12,000 students including over a thousand undergraduate and postgraduate students hailing from 92 countries. The lecturing community is in itself international and diverse."

Last week, Stephen Florian – a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta – attacked activist and University student Alex Caruana after the 27-year-old held a counter-protest during a demonstration by right-wing and Islamophobic group Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin.

Now, Florian, who is one of the leaders of the self-declared ‘patriots’ turned his sights on Sara Ezabe, a Muslim student of law, whom he described as a “radical.”

“Join us again next week for another episode of THE MUMMY. This girl sure has one hell of an ego problem… mixed with potential radicalism,” he wrote in a Facebook post last week. 

In his online post, Florian described the veiled Ezabe as a ‘mummy’
In his online post, Florian described the veiled Ezabe as a ‘mummy’

In a second rant, he posted a photo of the University student under the heading “A worthy piece of advice for Sara Ezabe,” and described her as arrogant, warning that “arrogance and radicalism will come at a crossroads.” 

In reply, Ezabe – who sits on the National Youth Council and was last year chosen as Commonwealth Young Leader for her contribution towards fostering a more tolerant, diverse and inclusive society – thanked people who expressed their solidarity and said “Stephen’s opinion of me is completely insignificant. He has proven himself the one with ‘the hell of an ego problem’.”

A number of lecturers have expressed their disgust at Florian’s comments and have said that they will be lodging an official complaint against the part-time visiting lecturer. 

The University of Malta has told MaltaToday that all members of staff “are expected to abide by the University of Malta’s code of conduct which includes specific policies on matters relating to harassment in its various forms.” Asked whether any action is being taken against Florian, the University said that it can initiate proceedings out of its own accord or following a complaint by a third party, adding that as a general rule, all members of staff are normally allowed to continue with their duties until the proceedings are concluded.

Following his transphobic rant against Caruana, the University of Malta “unreservedly” dissociated itself from all actions, verbal or otherwise, “which attempt to promote discrimination and/or incitement to racial hatred against any groups of people.”

In a statement issued on Monday, the University of Malta said it was investigating the comments made by Florian and underlined its commitment to supporting and protecting diversity and the rights of all individuals. 

“Whilst affirming the right to freedom of expression and association, the University of Malta condemns all actions which are motivated, wholly or partly by any form of hostility towards diverse groups.” 

In his transphobic online rant, for which he has since apologised, Florian said “Time we got to know who Alex Caruana really is and was,” adding that “this girl who now calls herself Alexander, was one of the three atheists who came to photomob [sic] the MPM Bugibba protest and the same one who on Xarabank, blundered in her numbers when stating garbled data about the ‘billions’ of Muslims living in Malta and worldwide.”

These are not isolated episodes, with Florian attacking other people including MaltaToday journalists and General Workers Union official Jeremy Camilleri. 

Union condemns bullying 

The University of Malta Academic Staff Association (UMASA) also entered the fray and in a statement it said that students and members of staff who feel that they have been victimised can file an official complaint with the University and avail themselves of the procedures stipulated in the bullying and harassment policy. 

It added that both complainants and defendants have the right to be represented by their respective unions and student bodies. 

UMASA also condemned any form of harassment and bullying and said that it supports the University wholeheartedly in the just implementation of its Harassment and Bullying Policy.