The Paly Voice

Admin grapples with Franco ties amid sexual allegations

William Sallomi

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Paly students pass under one of Golden-Globe winning Paly alumnus James Franco’s paintings displayed above a stairwell in the Media Arts Center. After five separate allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct arose against Franco last week, students and parents are concerned whether his artwork has a place on campus. “I don’t want to overreact and I want to be very thoughtful,” said Principal Kim Diorio. “At the end of the day we need to make sure our school is safe for all students.” Photo: Sophia Muys.

Students pass under one of Golden-Globe winning Paly alumnus James Franco’s paintings displayed above a stairwell in the Media Arts Center. After five separate allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct arose against Franco earlier this month, students and parents are concerned whether his artwork has a place on campus. “I don’t want to overreact and I want to be very thoughtful,” said Principal Kim Diorio. “At the end of the day we need to make sure our school is safe for all students.” Photo: Sophia Muys.

Following a set of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against Palo Alto High School alumnus James Franco, Principal Kim Diorio said in an interview Monday afternoon that she is struggling to determine the future of the Golden-Globe winner’s artistic contributions to the campus.

Diorio decided to have workers paint over the remaining mural on the school’s Student Center, a process which began today, while leaving the paintings inside the Media Arts Center untouched.

“I made the decision we’ll take down the mural on the Student Center because I think that’s the one that’s most visible to the outside community,” Diorio said.

Diorio said the paintings and mural were temporary contributions to the campus in 2014, when Franco spoke and debuted an experimental film at the 2014 opening of the MAC, an event that raised $7,000 for the Paly MAC boosters.

“When we were opening the MAC we wanted to do a big celebration,” Diorio said. “Nothing was intended to be permanent. Even his artwork is still considered to be ‘on loan’ to us.”

Diorio said she plans to leave the future of the paintings in the MAC to the discretion of the Paly media arts community.

Franco has been an active contributor to Paly media arts, sat for special interviews with various student publications over the years, and taught a weekend film workshop in the 2015-2016 school year on campus.

“I know that he credits … The Campanile [student newspaper] to his success as a student and to teaching him a lot of important life skills,” Diorio said. “When he was here [for the opening of the MAC] it was under a very special circumstance. He was helping us celebrate the opening of that building.”

According to Diorio, who said Franco was “kind” for donating his time to paint the mural, justifying the removal of his artwork is difficult and inevitably controversial because he has not been convicted of a crime.

“These are still allegations,” Diorio said. “I can’t even say it [the decision to replace the mural] is based on fact because he’s denied those allegations and hasn’t been charged with a crime.”

Paly journalism teacher and Campanile adviser Esther Wojcicki, who said she enjoyed teaching Franco from 1993 to 1996, said he is a kind man who deserves the chance to explain himself. According to Wojcicki, the allegations seem out of character for Franco.

“Mr. Franco I think is a very caring person and he is interested in giving back to the school and education,” Wojcicki said. “I think there is always two sides to a story and I really don’t know his side of the story at this point.”

Wojcicki said that taking down Franco’s artwork would be acting in haste, as his critics are taking allegations, which he has denied, for fact.

“Give him the benefit of the doubt,” Wojcicki said. “That’s the way it’s done in America. You aren’t guilty until you’re proven guilty.”

Despite her reluctance to act before hearing Franco’s explanation, Wojcicki said she supports Diorio’s choice to paint over the mural.

“I think Kim Diorio was under a lot of pressure to remove the mural and so she had to,” Wojcicki said. “I support her decision but I still think that we are all overreacting without giving James a chance to defend himself.”

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Admin grapples with Franco ties amid sexual allegations”

  1. Kathy Jordan on January 31st, 2018 2:26 pm

    Of course the mural should be painted over. And the rest of his artwork. James Franco has been accused by 5 women. How many women does it take before you believe them? 150 like for Dr. Nassar and USA Gymnastics? Or how about for our two PAUSD students for the sexual assault incidents?

    Isn’t Principal Diorio supposed to be the one to believe sexual misconduct allegations under Title IX? Good thing we have her in place at Paly.

    Kim Diorio, Vicki Kim and Kathie Laurence are called out in the $846,000 Cozen report for not doing the right thing by our students. Why not remove them as well?

  2. Christina on February 1st, 2018 2:13 am

    I personally think these murals should be removed—schools are not courts, and public opinion is not the same as a trial proceeding. One should assume “innocent until proven guilty” in a court of law, but a school is not a court of law—instead, the school’s primary responsibility should be the safety of its students. Not believing rape accusations against an alum who has donated a lot back to the school does not encourage a culture of safety, as it perpetuates a narrative that the people around you—especially those who seem kind and high-achieving and has done you favors—cannot be capable of sexual assault (not to mention how it could be extremely triggering for survivors of sexual assault within the school!). This is simply not true. Statistics show that most rapes occur between people who know each other, and can even occur in marriages where there is an implicit trust. Furthermore, those who report rape are for the large majority correct in their reports (given the culture of victim-shaming there is very little reason for anyone to falsely report rape), and I think it’s not only fair but also important to believe these accusations—especially since they were made by 5 different people. Anyways, I understand that James Franco has given a lot back to Paly (and have even personally met him once or twice) but he shouldn’t be off the hook just because we see him as a “nice guy.” It’s imperative for the school to condemn his behavior and send a strong message to students that the school does not tolerate this behavior in its students, and to say to survivors, “We believe you and we want to hear your voice.”

  3. Ken Girdley on February 5th, 2018 8:22 am

    Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Just sayin’.

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