UNC Professor Held in Argentina on Drug Charges Wants Raise from University
(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) — A 68-year-old physics professor who has spent the past 10 months in an Argentine jail cell awaiting trial on drug charges has asked the University of North Carolina to give him a raise.
Paul Frampton, who is embroiled in litigation with the university to have his $107,000 salary reinstated while he is in prison, made his case in a letter to Provost Bruce Carney that he should also be paid twice as much.
“This is another example of his chutzpah,” said Mark Williams, a UNC math professor. “Most people would think its crazy for a man in prison to ask for a raise, but if you look closely, he has a good case.”
The physicist, who said he fell victim to a con artist in Argentina, wrote that he ranks 18th out of 28 professors in his department in terms of pay, despite the fact he is the department’s most-cited author.
Frampton has not received a paycheck since March 1, when the university placed him on leave. Under university policy, nine-month faculty members, such as Frampton, are eligible for up to 60 calendar days of paid leave per year.
“Professor Frampton remains a valued member of the faculty, and we hope he can and will return to campus to resume his duties when his personal circumstances permit,” UNC spokeswoman Karen Moon told ABC News. She declined to comment on Frampton’s request for a raise, citing the ongoing litigation.
The tenured professor has been awaiting trial since his Jan. 23 arrest, when authorities at the airport in Buenos Aires found 2 kilograms of cocaine in the lining of his luggage.
Frampton claims he fell into a “honey trap,” and had been visiting the country to meet up with a bikini model he met online. Instead, the professor came into contact with a man acting as an intermediary, who asked him to carry the model’s empty suitcase.
Supporters, such as Williams, who has known Frampton for 27 years, said they believe the professor was duped.
“He has been known to show terrible judgment in many situations,” Williams said. “He’s excessively naive and possibly pathologically naive for a person his age.”
As he awaits trial in Argentina, the decorated physicist has continued his research in the overcrowded Villa Devoto prison in Buenos Aires.
During his time in prison, Frampton has remained “extremely productive,” Williams said. The professor has written at least three articles, one of which has been published in a leading physics journal, and his citations have increased significantly, according to Williams.
“I think some people are going to be offended by Paul asking for a raise,” Williams said. “The important thing is even if Paul had not been in prison, he would still have an extremely strong argument. His salary is a disgrace, and it needs to be corrected.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio