Did NYU Fire a Professor for Giving James Franco a D in His Class?
Former NYU professor Jose Angel Santana is accusing NYU of firing him for giving James Franco a bad grade. Is it true?
We all know how gung ho James Franco is over higher education. He did, after all, enroll in three graduate schools simultaneously; over the past couple of years, he’s been busy going through Columbia University’s MFA writing program, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, and Brooklyn College for fiction writing. Not only that, but he also occasionally commuted to Warren Wilson College in North Carolina for poetry (who the heck commutes to NORTH CAROLINA from NEW YORK? Oh, right. James Franco), he’s currently pursing a PhD in English at Yale, he’s planning on attending the Rhode Island School of Design at some point, and he’s heading to the University of Houston for their doctoral program in literature and creative writing in 2012.
This? This sounds crazy. But he’s James Franco, so he just kind of does it anyway. Even if he occasionally falls asleep in class (but hey, who hasn’t?).
But here’s an interesting twist: According to the New York Post, an NYU professor is claiming that the university fired him last year for daring to give James Franco a D in his class. Hmmm… sounds fishy…
Jose Angel Santana told the Post that he gave Franco the bad grade because he missed 12 of his 14 “Directing the Actor II” classes. Santana said that after he gave out the offending grade, he was subjected to all sorts of unpleasantness, starting with Franco publicly ridiculing him and ending with his department firing him. “The school has bent over backwards to create a Franc-friendly environment, that’s for sure,” the ex-professor said. “The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with Franco.”
Santana even went on to say that the good grades he earned in his other classes despite similar absences were “payback” or rewards for his hiring another NYU professor, Jay Anania, to write and direct the film William Vincent. Franco starred in the film, which was featured at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. “In my opinion,” Satana said, “they’ve turned the NYU graduate film degree into swag for James Franco’s purposes, a possession, something you can buy.”
Now, it’s true that big universities often face accusations of nepotism and whatnot, but… ouch.
In response, NYU spokesman John Beckman issued the following statement to the Hollywood Reporter: “We have not seen the lawsuit yet, but the claims we are seeing in the media are ridiculous. Beyond that, it is regrettable and disappointing to see a faculty member — former or otherwise — discuss any student’s grade for the purpose of personal publicity.”
And therein lies the rub: Did the university really fire Santana for giving a celebrity a bad grade? Or is this just a convenient excuse for him to lean on or get publicity from? Clearly, the University thinks it’s the latter; but I’m reserving judgment until I see how it plays out in court. It could go either way, but whichever way it ends up going, it’s going to look baaaaaaaaad for the losing party. For the curious, check out the full complaint filed by Santana here.
Tell us: What do you think? Did NYU really fire Santana for giving James Franco a D?
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.