NYU prof fired after giving Franco a bad grade?
December 19th, 2011
04:58 PM ET

NYU prof fired after giving Franco a bad grade?

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."

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    CNN, this guy is not a professor, but a lecturer. Professors don't get fired unless they *really* screw up.

    January 17, 2012 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
    • mica21

      No. Some professors are tenured, others not. And, even tenured professors do not have total immunity.

      April 25, 2013 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jaden S.

    He did the same thing at UCLA: they fawned over him and gave him a degree even though he NEVER went to class, didn't have to do the same assignments as the other students and didn't take any finals. He was registered in classes where he never had to show up for a single class. My english professor said is writing was on the level of a 10th grader, but the administration made it clear what grades he was to get.

    Franco is a fake. And a bad actor. His 15 minutes are up. Next?

    January 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chuck

    He got a D for attending only two of 14 classes? The professor was generous. Franco should have received an F. Why even sign up for classes if you're not going to bother to attend them?

    January 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hugh Jass©

    Maybe things have changed, but when was in uni, attendance was required for a passing grade. Too many absences resulted in a mandatory drop.

    January 7, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. ker

    in my almost 20-yr experience with university politics, i am pretty sure this guy is right, and that he is going to lose big in court. money talks at all universities. franco was lucky to get a D after missing all but 2 classes – with no excuse, either, like he was working on a movie or something – anyone else would have gotten an F and that was done with. professors are under so much pressure to give students "what they paid for," a/k/a a passing grade, this guy seems like he was the only one with any ethics.

    January 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. NYU

    But he famous! Therefore he need get free pass!

    December 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. sky26

    Franco should have received an F- FAILURE to comply with what is required for the class. I do believe prof.Santana is being fired for his decision. It took a great deal of courage to stand up to NYU politics. This incident is nothing new no matter what school is involved. The educational process is in need of integrity training. A large chunk of the educational process is supported by those who give into the educational political arena and will do whatever it takes to make the school "appear" as if no "real" problems exist. It involves test taking, grades, attendance, athletes what ever is providing money for the school or funded by government is highly protected. Does this sound like corporate America? This is nothing new it has been happening for years. Professor Santana is right in doing what he did. It is unbelievable that the majority of the comments disagree.

    December 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. madhater

    The professor should not have chosen to become a Mexican.

    December 20, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. annag

    You can't fail a student based on attendance alone.

    December 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • DarthRandall

      Oh yes you can. If the syllabus indicates attendance is a factor, then Harry Osbourne doesn't have a leg to stand on.

      January 15, 2012 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. Katherine

    we side with the professor on this one. It's VERY likely and this favoritism has played out many times before with famous people.

    December 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rod in Dallas TX

    If any of these commentors have actually been to college then they would know that a professor issues you a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. Most clearly state that if you miss a certain number of classes, the grade will decrease. Eventually, it will end in a failing grade. It DOES NOT say "Unless you turn in all your work." The point is, you have to attend class. Franco should have been given an F.

    December 20, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. annag

    If you know everything already why are you attending university in the first place? Attendance is important but it's only a small part of the final grade. Also, powerpoint is just that points, it cannot give you all the imformation a prof can.

    December 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. iBod

    For the people arguing James Franco deserved a "D"...
    I, for one, am here to tell all of you that most of the material some of my professors talk about in class have nothing to do with the class for most of the time in a class period; for the rest of the cases, the material gone over for most of the class period is something available online or in front of me, like a powerpoint or a book; but always, always, always, in all cases, the homework and the test regard the material that I possess...But yet for some of those classes, for every class you miss it is a letter grade dropped.
    See, I never understood absenteeism as a "critical" part of the learning process. It's like arguing: The student does not understand the material if it's not taught by me; No, the student won't understand the material if they don't be responsible adults and read what they are supposed to. Technically, a professor should be following by the book, powerpoint, etc., which is what the course should be mainly focused on, anyhow. Unless the class is one where participation is a heavy load of the grade, like an Acting class, I don't see any problem in letting students miss class...They are paying for the course, after all. Allow them to spend that time as they please. If they pass, they clearly understood the material; if they fail, their only failure comes from their their responsibility to understand the material. IF Franco did all his work as he said, then I really don't see why he deserved a "D". A "D" because of classwork and test grades? The professor has a better claim than if that were the case. And if the syllabus says, "Participation: 50% of Grade," then that can favor his claim, as well. You know what I mean? I hate that. I hate how professors say Participation is only, in reality, less than 10%, but yet you must attend the classes or else you lose a letter grade each time missed? Those are honestly the professors whom I encountered, was more confused when my head was in class than in the book, and, quite honestly, believe they deserve to be fired. Those were the professors whose only experience as an educator was as an educator, instead of as a student.

    But, What Franco received as a grade is not the issue, as are any of the above statements...
    The guy was not fired for giving the kid a "D". He was fired because he revealed he gave the kid a "D"...and as part of an accusation. At every school (from elementary on to higher ed), that is rule number one: You, as the educator, are not to disclose any student's personal information. He broke that code, and was fired. End of story.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • icetrout

      Good way to lower the cost of higher education – Cut back the overpriced Profs & Administrators :):):) :):)...

      January 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. stay classy NYU!

    Celebrity status gets you everywhere in life. How did he even get a D in the class if he missed 12 of 14 classes. How did even pass his other classes? He should've failed those ones too.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. the_dude

    I am not suprised mainly because I was never dumb enough to think this could be legitimate.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  16. annag

    Unfortunately, I have seen this kind of thing too often in universities. Students like Franco have a lot of political power and if prof's don't play along their contracts are not renewed.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  17. MJDrage

    When I heard this on the news my first question was "Who the hell is James Franco?" Guess he made a great impression on me - NOT. Prof.Santana was correct ingiving this "student" a D. Part of the grade is attendance and participation. If Franco couldn't be there he shouldn't have registered for the class. I work for NYU. They are MASTER manipulators. There's no doubt in my mind that Prof. Santana was "not renewed" because of the grade.

    December 20, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  18. Jimmy Franco

    I thought people went to school to learn something they don't know. Why is a Hollywood B+ list actor taking a course from a C list actor with a questionable PhD? Tells me everything I need to know about Franco and NYU.

    December 20, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  19. sue

    he didn't ruin the oscars but he didn't do a great job either..he looked totally bored and uncomfortable.

    December 20, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  20. Cait

    "doing all of your work" isn't enough if you registered for a course with classroom lectures. Participation is a big part of the grade. Sign up for distance learning if you can't make it to class. Honestly, the prof was extremely lax to let him pass. I've been withdrawn from a class for only missing 4 times. Such crap that celebrities can even weasel through college...all because of money!

    December 20, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  21. chimpanzee the christmas monkee

    He ruined the Oscars. And his movie about being stuck in a cace thing for 4 days was the worst. It was a cruddy movie.

    December 20, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  22. Mike B.

    So many of the comments on here are stupid. Just because one disgruntled employee makes some accusations doesn't make them true. He could have been let go for any number of reasons, but so many of you assume it's because of one celebrity student. Ridiculous! We don't know enough of the whole story to be making these judgments.

    December 20, 2011 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Busted

      If this is the only article you've read then maybe your comment is justified, however, the story is the same everywhere even at NYU where some students were upset about Franco even passing the class. Serious students don't want to attend a program where grades are just passed out, especially when they attend a reputable school that costs about 50K per year.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Frank!

    Remember that scene where he kissed Sean Penn. I thought he kinda got into that role maybe a little TOO MUCH, if you know what I mean.

    December 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  24. angry candy

    Prof. Santana sounds old-school. 'New-school', in this case, would stipulate that a Prof., prior to bestowing a student's earned grade, first carefully consider all political-ramifications.ie. Can this student, irregardless of the quality of their submitted work, independent of class attendence/contribution to class dynamics and, above all, void of any measureable construct, help or hurt me in my quest for on-my-knees survival ?

    Your fat, slick and employed Profs know all the answers.

    December 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • NYU Insider

      Depending on the NYU program, the NYU professors will clearly state that attendance is part of the grade. This grading situation appears to be a CONSISTENT policy in both NYU undergraduate and graduate for the smaller classes. I think Professor Santana did the right thing to uphold the integrity of NYU grading system and highlight the issue of fairness. It’s a crying shame to know other students are busting their butt, studying for finals, while the “NYU privileged class” are expecting a good grade for not attending their classes. If Mr. Franco wants a degree without going to class, please study on-line or enroll at another university. NYU parents are paying the same amount and expect fair treatment for their children. We didn’t pay for a two tier system, we paid for a great education, world class teachers and expect the integrity of the system to be upheld. You can get that special treatment from Washington DC and Hollywood……

      December 19, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • DarthRandall

      @angry candy: They certainly have the answer to your use of the word "Irregardless". It's "Regardless". Your grade is an F, and you deserve it. 🙂

      January 15, 2012 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  25. Dad

    My daughter attends NYU and does not receive any special treatment like Mr. Franco. James Franco, you deserved the "D". Start working and showing up to class like the other students. Shame on you NYU!!! Better do the right thing and reinstate this professor.....

    December 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  26. monkey

    Santa just might not bring that Franco any presents.

    December 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  27. chimchim

    He is a dooodoooo head. And a fuuudjepacker. A g a y lesbean meanie.

    December 19, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Mr. Kowschevski

    this goes all the way back to high school, when he hung out with all of the freaks, and had to ruin that Lindsey Weir by putting her up to "helping him" with his math tests.

    December 19, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Superhiro

    100% not cool if this is true.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  30. LEEl

    Bad monkey! Bad teacher! Don't they know that actors walk on water?

    December 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  31. TEACH

    Id fail his butt too. Plus he should get a zero in classroom participation.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  32. timmie

    I always knew that James Franco character was a loser. Only showing up for 2 out of 14 days. He deserved an F. He also deserves an F for his cruddy acting abilities. He is not only untallented but is also lazy and dumb.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thom

      One Oscar nomination, three Golden Globe nominations (one win), and three SAG nominations say otherwise.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank!

      He was LUCKY to get a D. The professor probably gave him a D because he knew an F would get Franco kicked out of the graduate program.

      December 19, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      I don't think he should get any pudding for lunch, either!

      December 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |

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