Source: ReutersNew 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, claiming he made "disparaging and inaccurate public statements" against him after receiving a poor grade in his class two years ago.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."Meanwhile, Franco-who recently directed a music video for REM's Blue starring Lindsay Lohan-is emerging as the frontrunner to star in a big screen adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's hit Broadway play Good People.This Boston-set drama plays out between a down-on-her-luck single mother with a disabled child, and a former classmate who has escaped the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Southie.When she loses her minimum-wage job, Margie, played by Frances McDormand on stage, seeks employment from the former classmate, played by Tate Donovan on Broadway, who may or may not be the father of her child.Franco already has the script, and some sources have told TheWrap that the actor is in the process of attaching himself to the project.Good People was nominated for two Tony awards in 2011, with McDormand winning best leading actress.Last year, reports surfaced that Focus Features and American Beauty producer Dan Jinks were in negotiations to adapt the play for the big screen, with McDormand looking to reprise her role on screen.