James Franco, the 127 Hours and Rise of the Planet of the Apes star, has a new role: He is a defendant in a defamation (i.e., character assassination) lawsuit filed yesterday in Manhattan Supreme Court by former New York University theater professor Jose Angel Santana.
Santana, who is already suing the university itself for allegedly wrongfully booting him over the dispute with Franco, asserts that Franco blasted his teaching ability publicly after he gave the actor a D grade in his directing course.
Franco apparently only showed up for two of the 14 classes taught by Santana. “Whoever was in Clint Eastwood’s chair at the Republican National Convention was more present than Mr. Franco was in my classes,” Prof. Santana told the New York Post. “I didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of those falsehoods,” he added of the alleged disparaging and inaccurate public statements made by Franco.
Santana described Franco as a “bully” who uses “the bully pulpit of his celebrity to punish anyone who doesn’t do his bidding.” He has also concluded that NYU and its Fine Arts faculty members “bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment.”
Santana was an adjunct instructor, meaning that he did not have tenure-protected job security. Whether Santana’s case has merit will ultimately be decided in court unless there is a settlement or the claim is dropped.
That being said, adjunct university professors (who are often on a semester-to-semester contract) generally often have to run a public relations tightrope if they want to keep the gig. While they have to uphold academic standards and treat all students fairly and equally, even one negative student evaluation or a complaint — even if bogus — could result in the non-renewal of a teaching contract.
Do you think it’s likely that James Franco got special treatment from NYU?