As most of you know, Paul Frampton, the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UNC, has been in prison in Argentina since January 23, 2012 on drug charges.

As more information about his case becomes available, such as the July 22 article in the Argentine newspaper Clarin, it becomes more and more obvious that Paul was the innocent, although very gullible, victim of a scam.

Paul left the U.S. in January, believing that his one scheduled Spring class, a graduate course with just one enrolled student, would be canceled because of failure to meet the minimum enrollment requirement. He was expecting to return within a few days with a woman he was to meet in Bolivia. Since he expected to be away only a short time, he left his car parked at RDU airport.

On February 17, 2012 the Provost, Bruce Carney, sent Paul a letter informing him that his salary would be stopped until he could reassume his duties as a faculty member. Paul has hired a Chapel Hill lawyer, Barry Nakell, to help him get his salary back. Several days ago Paul told one of us that he expects to run out of money roughly by September. He has been in prison 192 days and
has no idea when his trial will actually occur. He has published six refereed journal articles since the beginning of 2012, and continues to supervise his two PhD students by phone.

We are writing to express our strong objections to UNC’s decision to stop Paul’s salary, and to alert the faculty to actions taken by the University that we believe should be of great concern to all UNC faculty.

The first and main objection is that, in view of Paul’s over thirty years of distinguished service to this University, and considering his present circumstances in Argentina, the decision to stop his salary is inhumane. Without his salary, Paul is unable to hire a private lawyer to defend himself.

His current lawyer is a public defender with a large caseload. Paul also needs money to buy himself decent food at the prison. Given the slowness and complexity of the Argentine legal system and the great difficulty of finding any way to influence the progress of Paul’s case, paying Paul is perhaps the only way UNC can effectively help him. By not paying him, and thereby directly interfering
with his ability to properly defend and properly feed himself, the University is taking an action that may ultimately cause him grave harm. He is 68, an asthmatic, and has had pulmonary problems.

We also object to the manner in which Paul’s salary was suspended. Our intention here is not to present a legal case, but, to give one example, we call your attention to Chapter VI, section 603, of the Code of the University of North Carolina:

“The chief academic officer of the institution, however titled, shall send the faculty member a written notice of intention to discharge the faculty member or impose a serious sanction together with a written specification of the reasons. The notice and specification of reasons shall be sent by a method of mail or delivery that requires a signature for delivery. The statement shall include
notice of the faculty member’s right, upon request, to a hearing by an elected standing faculty committee on hearings.”

The February 17, 2012 letter in which the Provost notified Paul of the suspension of his salary failed to inform Paul of his right to a hearing, and there has been no hearing as stipulated in the Code. The Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, and Provost were informed about this omission in a letter dictated on the phone by Paul to one of us and emailed on July 23, 2012. In his February 17
letter to Paul, the Provost did not of course choose a phrasing of the following sort: “We hereby impose upon you the serious sanction of suspending your salary”. Instead, he chose the gentler phrasing: “Unfortunately, in consultation with Chancellor Thorp and President Ross, I must inform you that your absence from your duties requires you to take personal leave, which means that
after your salary payment on February 29, your salary will cease until such time as you are able to reassume your duties as a faculty member.”

Paul certainly has not taken a voluntary leave of absence. An important protection of our tenure system specifies that even where suspension is necessary, suspension shall be with full pay. By imposing a personal leave on Paul, the University is undermining this protection. No university should be able to stop a tenured faculty member’s pay simply by declaring him to be on personal leave, even over his objection.

Finally, we call your attention to the University’s more recent decision not to pay Paul his summer salary. This salary comes from a Department of Energy grant, and this decision was made by UNC in discussions with the DOE. Like many faculty Paul has no courses to teach or other duties that require his presence at UNC during the summer, and physicists often spend summers doing research far from their home campuses. It is well-established that Paul has continued to publish papers from prison and to supervise his students. So the argument of “absence from your duties” cited in the Provost’s letter clearly does not apply here.

We are all capable of making mistakes that can cause trouble serious enough to prevent us from performing all or part of our University duties for a time. Imagine that this happens to you after you have taught for years at UNC as a tenured faculty member. Given the precedent being set by the Frampton case, heaven help you.

If you share our concern and wish to add your name to this letter, a copy of which will be transmitted to the Chancellor and to the Provost, please let us know at

Additional information about Paul’s case and documents related to this letter are available on the webpage:


-Mark Williams, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Hugon Karwowski, Professor of Physics, UNC
-Jack Griffith, Kenan Professor, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC
-Gabriel Karl, University Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, Canada, FRSC
-Patrick Eberlein, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Marcelo Ubriaco, Professor of Physics, University of Puerto Rico
-Sheldon Glashow, Higgins Professor of Physics Emeritus, Harvard University
-Arthur G.B. Metcalf Professor of Science and Mathematics, Boston University (Nobel Laureate)
-Karl Petersen, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-C.K.R.T. Jones, Bill Guthridge Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Gregory Forest, Grant Dahlstrom Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Shrawan Kumar, J. R. and L. S. Parker Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Alfred T. Goshaw, James B. Duke Professor of Physics, Duke University
-Eugen Merzbacher, Kenan Professor of Physics Emeritus, UNC
-Christian Iliadis, Professor of Physics, UNC
-James L. Peacock III, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UNC
-Joseph F. Plante, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., Kenan Professor of Computer Science, UNC
-Roberto Camassa, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Frank Avignone, Carolina Endowed Professor of Physics and Astronomy, USC
-Julia T. Wood, Lineberger Professor of Humanities Emerita and Royster Professor Emerita, Communication Studies, UNC
-Don Ellison, Professor of Physics, N.C. State
-J. Ross Macdonald, Kenan Professor of Physics Emeritus, UNC
-Fred Myhrer, Professor of Physics, USC
-Robert Scherrer, Professor of Physics and Department Chair, Vanderbilt
-Frank Tsui, Professor of Physics, UNC
-David Tanner, Distinguished Professor of Physics, University of Florida
-Valerie Lambert, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UNC
-Michael Rubinstein, John P. Barker Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, UNC
-Marshall Edgell, Kenan Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Emeritus, UNC
-Brian Stabler, Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus, School of Medicine, UNC
-Charles M. van der Horst, Professor of Medicine, UNC
-Lishan Su, Professor of Immunology, UNC
-Amy Shaheen, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Medicine, UNC
-Steven L. Young, Associate Professor, Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, UNC
-Amy K. Motl, Assistant Professor of Medicine, UNC Kidney Center, School of Medicine,UNC
-Randall Hendrick, Professor of Linguistics, UNC
-Jay M. Smith, Professor of History and Associate Chair, UNC
-Robert G. Dennis, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UNC
-Andrew Myron Johnson, Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus, UNC
-Lawrence I. Gilbert, Kenan Professor of Biology Emeritus, UNC.
-Klaus M. Hahn, Thurman Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, UNC
-Edward L. Chaney, Professor Emeritus, Department of Radiation Oncology, UNC
-David Mora Marn, Associate Professor, Linguistics, UNC
-Stephen V. Frye, Ph.D., Fred Eshelman Distinguished Professor, Division of Chemical Biology
and Medicinal Chemistry, and Director, Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, UNC
-Misha Becker, Associate Professor of Linguistics, UNC
-Stanley W. Black, Georges Lurcy Professor of Economics, Emeritus, UNC
-Marianne Gingher, Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of English and Creative Writing, UNC
-Rita O’Sullivan, Associate Professor, School of Education, UNC
-Ofri Leitner, Certified Genetic Counselor, Clinical Assistant Professor of Genetics,UNC Cancer and Adult Genetics, UNC
-Tom Reinert, Associate Professor, English Department, UNC
-Edward T. Samulski, Cary C Boshamer Professor of Chemistry, UNC
-Amarjit Budhiraja, Professor, Department of Statistics and Operations Research, UNC
-Gregory W. Brown, Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Scholar of Finance, Kenan-Flagler Business School, UNC
-T. Gary Bishop, Professor of Computer Science, UNC
-Marc Lange, Theda Perdue Distinguished Professor, Philosophy Department Chair, UNC
-Gary W. Marks, Chair in Multilevel Governance, VU Amsterdam, Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Political Science, UNC
-Maria Servedio, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, UNC
-Ana C. G. Felix, Assistant Professor, Neurology Clerkship Director, Department of Neurology, UNC
-Keith Burridge, Kenan Professor Cell and Developmental Biology, and Lineberger Comprehensive
Cancer Center, UNC

(sent August 1, 2012 to members of the UNC faculty)