Celebrity Curve? NYU Professor Sues After Being Fired Allegedly For Giving Star James Franco A Bad Grade

NYU Professor José Angel Santana says that he was doing what any responsible academic would do when faced with a student who missed 12 out of 14 assignments: he gave him a “D”. The problem, he alleges, was that the student was Hollywood hunk James Franco (left) from “127 Hours.” He says that he was ridiculed by the star and fired by the school over the decision. Franco gained fame portraying James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.

Santana was teaching “Directing the Actor II” classes and says that NYU “bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment.” He says that other teachers gave him good grades despite his absences. Not only that, the school ended up having Franco teach a course.

By the way, when does getting an F on 12 out of 14 assignments translate into a “D”? Many professors would find that pretty generous.

It gets even more academically sordid from there. Santana alleges that Franco was given good grades in exchange for hiring one of his other professors, Jay Anania, to write and direct the film “William Vincent” — starring Franco. He also alleges a conflict of interest by the graduate film department chairman, John Tintori, for allegedly appearing in a cameo in a film financed by Franco and written and directed by Anania.

Santana states that “they’ve turned the NYU graduate film degree into swag for James Franco’s purposes, a possession, something you can buy.” Santana said.

Franco previously attracted attention when he was shown sleeping through classes on TMZ.

Here is the complaint: Santana Complaint

The first cause of action is “Discrimination Based on Race and Color Under Executive Law §296.”

The second cause of action is “Discrimination Based on Race and Color Under Administrative Code.”

The third cause of action is “Retaliation in Violation of Executive Law §296.”

The fourth, and final, cause of action is “Retaliation in Violation of Administrative Code.”

He is seeking both punitive and compensatory damages as well as declaratory.

The actor contests the allegations of his former professor and I expect that school is likely to vigorously deny that his employment problems were related to any special treatment for the actor.

The conflict issues are interesting. It is not uncommon for professors to incorporate students in projects. Indeed, it is encouraged in graduate schools. Here the professors are engaged in profit-making and professional activities with a student. That does raise some concerns. On the other hand, these professors are actors and directors — valued for their work in the craft of theater. Timing is everything in such controversies. Accepting a valuable professional position from a student in an active class — as opposed to a past class — would raise legitimate issues under most academic codes.

NYU has such a code with a conflicts section.

A conflict is defined as:

A Conflict of Interest, as discussed in greater detail in Sections IV and V, means any circumstance in which the personal, professional, financial or other interests of an individual (including the Immediate Family Members of the individual) may potentially or actually diverge from, or may be reasonably perceived as potentially or actually diverging from, his or her professional obligations to NYU and the interests of NYU. A Conflict of Interest may exist whenever an independent observer might reasonably question whether the individual’s professional actions or decisions, including the ethical and objective conduct of scholarship, research or clinical care, are determined by considerations of personal gain, financial or otherwise.

There are also rules governing gifts that could be alleged as relevant in such circumstances:

Gifts. Accepting gifts (including entertainment), a loan (other than an arm’s length loan made in the ordinary course of business from a banking or other financial institution) or a favor of more than nominal value from any person or entity with a business relationship, or seeking to have a business relationship with, NYU is a Conflict of Interest if the offer or acceptance of the gift could reasonably be viewed as intended to influence NYU to act favorably toward the person or entity. Acceptance of such gifts creates a Conflict of Interest.

Since many of the conflict rules relate to conflicts with the university, the “Conflict of Commitment” section may be more relevant here. The rules do state that “the specific responsibilities and professional activities that constitute an appropriate primary commitment to NYU will differ across schools and departments.” However, the rules state that a “Conflict of Commitment occurs when a faculty member’s Outside Activities compromise or may compromise his or her ability to meet the faculty member’s obligations to NYU.”

This will be an interesting lawsuit to watch.

Source: NY Post

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15 thoughts on “Celebrity Curve? NYU Professor Sues After Being Fired Allegedly For Giving Star James Franco A Bad Grade”

  1. The actor is a golden boy of someone or multiple people with very powerful positions in film and entertainment. Its unsuprising given the reputation of the school that there is a connection to someone in the industry. It probably goes alot deeper that what is being reported.

  2. A highly over rated actor. watching 127 hrs indeed seemed like 127 hours before the movie was finally over. A whole movie about a guy sitting there with his arm stuck. Would a movie about a plumber who gets his arm stuck in the garbage disposer for 127 hrs. sound like a good idea? Well Franco’s movie is not much different.

    As far as Svoogle saying he has not heard anything about Franco being a diva, well he is constantly out there saying how great he is, and how much of an intellectual he thinks he is.

    Regarding this section of one of the comments:
    “That gambit worked exceedingly well, but Franco still wanted an education. He returned to UCLA in the fall of 2006, at age 28, cramming as many courses as he could into each quarter. His course load ranged from 20 to 62 credits per quarter (anyone wanting to do more than 19 a quarter needs special permission), all the while maintaining a grade point average of above 3.5”

    It is quite impossible to take 20-62 credits in a semester. it is physically and educationally impossible. Although 20 credits is possible, but its on the very edge of class overload. There would be now way for any person to be able to take so many courses and find the time to finish all that would be required by those courses. To be conservative, lets say he took somewhere in the middle of 20-62 credits, how about 46 credits. Lets say 3 credits counts as one class so he was taking 15 classes in one semester! I don’t care if you Einstein no way anyone can take so many courses. Either that is a mistake or Franco was given a free ride and recieved all these hours without actually having to to the course work. He was just handed them because of his fame. By the way no college anywhere would let any student take anywhere near that amount of courses in one semester. hell i don’t think that those corrupt online colleges would allow it.

  3. Whatever the other issues may be … if the man missed 12 of 14 assignments an “F” is what he earned … the “D” was a gift.

  4. James Franco puts another doctoral notch in his degree belt
    At University of Houston for creative writing? Why not? We pick five more universities where the actor would excel
    By Drew Grant

    Houston? Why Houston? Probably to prove that in addition to everything else, Franco can physically be in three places at once. Also that he has terrible taste. Has he ever been to Houston? Think about what that kind of humidity would do to his hair!

    But in case Franco is worried about not having enough degrees to be considered a complete fraud, I’ve found a couple more programs for him to enlist in.

    Bryn Mawr’s MFA in Creative Writing

    Why it’s perfect for Franco: In order to get in to the women’s liberal arts college, he’ll have to dress in drag and convince his beautiful roommate that he’s indeed a woman and not in love with her. This plot will win him a 2012 Oscar for Best Life-cum-Film.

    Southern New Hampshire University Online Master of Fine Arts — Fiction

    Why it’s perfect for Franco: It will take Franco at least two years to realize that Southern New Hampshire isn’t a state. Unless it’s a state of mind? Discuss.

    University of Baltimore MFA — Creative Writing & Publishing Arts

    Why it’s perfect for Franco: Sending pretty boy Franco to the city that gave birth to “The Wire” seems like a great practical joke until he is cast in John Waters’ latest feature, making him, in the words of Vanity Fair’s September cover, “The New Divine.”

    Bennington College MFA in Writing and Literature — Writing Seminars

    Why it’s perfect for Franco: Sending Franco to the same school where Bret Easton Ellis and Betty Ford earned their degrees? What could go wrong?

    Columbia University MFA — Creative Writing

    Why it’s perfect for Franco: One creative writing MFA from Columbia University isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion creative writing MFAs from Columbia University.

  5. Who knows, could be a pissed off Professor who asked Franco for a gig and was left out..maybe he’s looking for his 15 minutes of fame now..I have not heard any other negative stories about Franco being a diva, backstabber, or some other type of unpleasant person, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt

  6. “Franco, born in Palo Alto, Calif., graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996, where he was voted “Best Smile” by his senior class.”


    It is amazing how far facial beauty can take you in this world. It is also quite
    easy, given the money, to have people write papers for you and to have Professors flattered by a celebrity in their midst. He was also a part of the worst Academy Award hosting that I’ve seen in the 60 some odd years I’ve watched the ceremony.

  7. Mike S.,

    I think it’s probably boundless ego.

    I often wonder if all these young actors and actresses who get accepted to Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale do so because of their fame and not their intellectual prowess.


    James Franco’s unusual education
    By Valerie Strauss

    James Franco, actor and co-host of The Academy Awards tonight, likes going to school. In fact, he still is, studying for his doctorate in English at Yale University, while fitting in movie and television appearances on the side.

    Franco, born in Palo Alto, Calif., graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996, where he was voted “Best Smile” by his senior class. He enrolled at UCLA as a freshman that same year, but didn’t last long, deciding to give acting a chance.

    That gambit worked exceedingly well, but Franco still wanted an education. He returned to UCLA in the fall of 2006, at age 28, cramming as many courses as he could into each quarter. His course load ranged from 20 to 62 credits per quarter (anyone wanting to do more than 19 a quarter needs special permission), all the while maintaining a grade point average of above 3.5.

    He was awarded with a bachelor’s degree in English, with a creative writing concentration in June 2008, at which point he headed for New York and enrolled in not one or two schools but three: Columbia University’s M.F.A. writing program; Brooklyn College for creative writing; and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for directing.

    He earned a masters degree from Columbia and then moved on to Yale, where he is now studying for a doctorate in English.

  8. The NYU Film School is one of the most, if not most, prestigious film schools. If this professor’s side of the story is true it yields a sad commentary on the school and on Franco. What little I know of his career has been that he has tried to present himself as a man for all seasons. Perhaps though that is just the hype of a movie star whose ego is boundless.

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