Paul Frampton, who is well-known for his work developing models in particle physics and cosmology was arrested in Buenos Aires on 23 January when he tried to board a plane with two kilograms of cocaine in this luggage, according to a 20 March report in the Raleigh, North Carolina-based News & Observer.
Speaking by telephone from the jail where he has been incarcerated, Frampton told the newspaper that he is innocent and seems — according to the report — more concerned about his treatment by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where he is on the faculty, than by the drugs charges, which he expects will be dismissed.
According to Frampton, UNC has stopped paying his salary, even though he is continuing to do research and supervise students by phone from jail. A spokeswoman for the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC, Dee Reid, confirmed Frampton’s salary was reduced to zero on 1 March, saying this was at the discretion of the university provost, Bruce Carney, also a physicist.
Carney referred requests for comment to university public relations staff. Reid says the provost cannot talk about why he cut Frampton’s salary because this is a private personnel matter. She adds that, as a tenured faculty member, Frampton has substantial rights and protections at the university. “They can’t dismiss him without procedures,” she explains. But this does not apply to a salary adjustment as Frampton remains fully affiliated with the university in his regular position, he is just “on leave”.
UNC’s policies on tenure lay out detailed protocols for suspension, demotions and discharges, but make no mention of the procedure for a change in salary.
A member of the UNC administration, Jonathan Hartlyn, was recently in Buenos Aires and met with a member of the Argentine judiciary on 5 March to discuss Frampton’s case, Reid says.
Frampton is apparently also receiving assistance from academics in Buenos Aires. A co-author of his in the US, Robert Scherrer, a physicis at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, says while he knew Frampton had not returned from a recent trip abroad, he did not know about his arrest until it appeared in the news, and he is not aware of efforts in the US academic community to help him.
Image: Paul Frampton / UNC Web Site.