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/ November 29, 2012
NYU Defends Franco In Lawsuit, Chaos Ensues

As the semester winds down into finals, we scramble for notes on lectures long past and old worksheets in the back of our desks. “Thank goodness,” you think to yourself, “At least I didn’t skip 12 out of 14 classes.”

Well, maybe you don’t think that. But NYU celeb student/teacher James Franco probably greeted finals week in 2010 with regret for skipping so many classes. When grades were released, he received a D in “Directing the Actor II,” taught by Professor Jose Angel Santana. Franco responded with a barrage of insults, calling Santana a “bad teacher” and “awful” to the press.

Nearly a year ago, Santana sued NYU after losing his job. In September 2012, he directed another suit against Franco, claiming defamation.

On Tuesday, NYU defended Franco’s position in the lawsuit, saying, “The comments at issue consisted of nothing other than Franco’s personal opinions regarding Santana’s teaching skills.”

John Beckman, Vice President of Public Affairs at NYU, responded to the initial December 2011 allegations towards the University:

We find it deeply unprofessional, regrettable, and disappointing that any faculty member – present or past – would publicly discuss any student’s grades for the purpose of his or her lawsuit’s publicity.

In the similar vein of publicity, the University itself defends Franco’s comments:

Franco’s comments were made in response to a reporter’s question during a question-and-answer session in advance of a screening of Franco’s new film. When considering the forum in which the comments were made, as well as the fact that Franco is a famous actor and director who has many duties and responsibilities outside the scope of his employment as an adjunct professor at NYU, no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were made in the scope of his NYU employment.

The perception of Santana as first and foremost a faculty member representing the school, opposed to Franco’s prioritized celebrity role, demonstrates an interesting conundrum in the case. Because Franco is famous, and is exposed to interviews “outside the scope of his duties” at NYU, is he given special treatment versus Professor Santana, who is expected to not mention things like grades to the press?

Celebrity presence at NYU seems like a badge of honor for the school. Is the university willing to go the extra mile for them? Or is this merely an instance of a school defending a student rather than a former employee? Is the university implementing a standard policy while Hollywood is watching? We’ll just have to await the outcome.

[Image via.]