José Angel Santana, a former professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, claims he lost his job last year because he gave James Franco a “D” in the class “Directing the Actor II” after the celebrity student missed twelve of fourteen classes.

News of Franco’s alleged slacking might have professors at the University of Houston biting their erasers as the actor was slated to matriculate there this past September, in pursuit of his Ph.D. in creative writing. Now some are questioning whether Franco can really commit to the five-year program that requires one academic year of full-time residency.

When Franco attended NYU, the school “bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that’s for sure,” said Santana, who is suing the university to get his job back, according to the New York Post. “In my opinion, they’ve turned the NYU graduate film degree into swag for James Franco’s purposes, a possession, something you can buy.”

(For an appropriately cinematic retelling of this story, with Franco as James Dean, check out’s animated short, which also recounts the celebrity’s other pursuits in higher learning.)

While there has been no official word from Franco or NYU, Juliafig, a commenter on the Houston Chronicle‘s Newswatch blog, has come to the polymath’s rescue:

I don’t know anything about Franco one way or the other, but maybe the professor didn’t have his contract renewed for cause – it’s easy to blame it on a disgruntled student, especially one who is (I guess) high-profile. If that’s the case, where are the other professors portraying this guy as a prima donna? Doesn’t really pass the smell test, to me.

So should the professors at U of H be worried about giving the actor bad marks? According to the poet Tony Hoagland, one of Franco’s writing mentors, it won’t be an immediate concern.

“It is official, I believe, that he is NOT going to do the Ph.D. at Houston in the foreseeable future,” Hoagland told the TM Daily Post in an email. “Instead, he’s going to get another MFA, this one in fiction, from Warren Wilson low residency program.”