New York University scholars have waded into a legal spat between their adjunct professor James Franco and a former employee.
Jose Angel Santana filed a defamation lawsuit against the 127 Hours star in September (12), claiming he made "disparaging and inaccurate public statements" against him after receiving a poor grade in his class two years ago (10).
He dubbed Franco a "bully" for comments the actor made about him in the media.
In one interview, the Spider-Man star called Santana "awful" and "a bad teacher".
The professor named NYU as a defendant, and now officials at the university have spoken out, asking a New York judge to dismiss the plaintiff's claims, stating, "The comments at issue consisted of nothing other than Franco's personal opinions regarding Santana's teaching skills...
"Franco's description of Santana as 'awful' does not have a precise meaning, nor... is it capable of being proven true or false".
The NYU officials insist other comments made by Franco about his former professor are little more than "rhetorical hyperbole", while heads at the university insist they cannot be held responsible for what the actor says to the media.
A statement from the school, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, reads "Franco's comments were made in response to a reporter's question during a question-and-answer session in advance of a screening of Franco's new film.
"When considering the forum in which the comments were made, as well as the fact that Franco is a famous actor and director who has many duties and responsibilities outside the scope of his employment as an adjunct professor at NYU, no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were made in the scope of his NYU employment".