There are websites where the sole purpose is to allow students to rate their professors. Students can vent, review, or compliment the work of their professors. Beyond the internet, we have students complaining in halls, whining on Facebook or Twitter, and submitting angry evaluations at the end of the semester.
Let's sue 'em all!
Former visiting NYU Professor José Angel Santana has decided to start with James Franco, probably because Mr. Franco is kinda famous. Franco got a "D" in Santana's class and then told reporters that Santana was "awful" and that he was not going to waste his time with a crappy professor. He also stated that NYU would never fire a professor for handing out a "D"; Instead, he claimed Santana was asked not to return because he was a bad professor.
Them's fightin' words, Mr. Franco.
Santana didn't take too kindly to Mr. Franco's public airing of his grievances against his professor. He's suing for defamation and libel, according to Courthouse News Service.
Before you all go rushing to your professor rating sites, deleting Facebook status messages, and untweeting your tweets, let's take a look at this joke of a lawsuit. (Oops. Don't sue us, Mr. Santana).
Most, if not all, of Mr. Franco's statements were opinion. Obviously, his personal distaste for Professor Santana's teaching style was opinion. Opinions can form the basis of a defamation suit, but only in uber-rare cases. We don't like people suing over opinions. Otherwise, we'd all either be saying something nice or saying nothing at all. What's the fun in that? Plus, there's that "free speech" nonsense that this country holds in high regard.
Franco's assertion that NYU declined to rehire Santana because he sucked at his job may or may not be seen as opinion, as Franco is also a professor at NYU. Nonetheless, even if that is a statement of fact rather than opinion, the embattled professor-plaintiff is still going to have to prove that the statement is false. We can see the opening statements in the trial now:
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. The issue for you to decide today is whether or not Professor Santana does, in fact, suck at his job."
Seriously though, that may become the defining issue. Defamation suits require proving that a false statement was made, published to third parties, and injured the plaintiff. Franco ranted to the media, and his rant spread across the world via the Internet. Santana is going to blame any extended period of unemployment on Franco's statement, so injury is covered as well.
The question remains: Is Professor Jose Angel Santana truly an awful professor, or is Mr. Franco a bitter defamer?
- Consult a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Jose Santana v. James Franco and New York University (Complaint)
- 'Hippy Dippy Chick' Sues 'Fair and Balanced' Fox News (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- NY Courts: 'Gay' is Okay, No Longer Defamatory (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)