December 19th, 2011
04:58 PM ET
James Franco’s pursuit of higher education has sparked legal drama.
A New York University professor claims that the low grade he gave Franco played a part in him losing his job, and he's included the allegation in a suit he's filed against the institution as a result, the professor's lawyer tells CNN.
The prof, José Angel Santana, awarded Franco a "D" grade in “Directing the Actor II” around the spring of 2010 because of poor attendance, a complaint filed in the New York Supreme Court outlines. The complaint alleges that the actor had about 12 unexcused absences out of a total of 14 sessions.
(The complaint also cites a number of other allegations, including that Santana was discriminated against on the basis of race and color, allegedly demonstrated through, among other things, an alleged lower pay than colleagues and a storage closet for an office.)
The prof said the repercussions for the “D” included Franco – who is pursuing a master’s in fine arts from NYU – ridiculing him publicly. Then, after a series of separate alleged occurrences involving other faculty, he was relieved of his job.
Santana claims that other professors at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts gave 33-year-old Franco good grades, despite poor attendance and academic performance from the actor/student. In his lawsuit, the prof speculates that the high marks may be payback: Franco hired professor Jay Anania to write and direct the film “William Vincent.”
“In my opinion, they’ve turned the NYU graduate film degree into swag for James Franco’s purposes, a possession, something you can buy,” Santana, 58, told the New York Post. “The school has bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that’s for sure. The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco.”
NYU spokesman John Beckman tells CNN in a statement: "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."
Beckman adds that Santana was not terminated from the university; his contract was not renewed.
For his part, Franco did own up to getting a D in a directing class last year. “I did '127 Hours' in March and April so I missed a lot of the classes," the actor admitted to Showbiz411.com. “But I did all my work."
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