Fresh criticism aimed at Maryland’s higher ed system after report on handling of campus outbreak

Before Maryland’s university system board of regents met in executive session Friday morning, board Chair Linda Gooden issued a statement in direct response to a report from The Washington Post.

That story outlined how the University of Maryland waited 18 days before notifying students that there had been an outbreak of adenovirus on campus. In November, 18-year-old freshman Olivia Paregol died after contracting the virus at the school.

Gooden’s written statement read, in part: “Along with the entire Board of Regents, I remain deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Olivia.” Gooden’s statement continued, “Let me be clear, student safety is the first order of leadership and the highest priority at all of our campuses.”

After WTOP reported on the Board of Regents’ meeting, Olivia Paregol’s father, Ian, contacted WTOP. Ian Paregol responded to Gooden’s statement by saying, “From our perspective, the university has demonstrated a reckless pattern of indifference to the health and safety of staff and students.”

Paregol wasn’t alone in his criticism; the University of Maryland had posted a message on its Facebook page on Thursday, which stated, in part, “On our campus, the safety and health of students, faculty and staff is of paramount importance.”

But many of the comments posted on the page, from parents of current students and alumnae, criticized the school and the Board of Regents.

One poster, Beth Walls Franks, wrote in her comment, “I read the WP article in tears and then the next thing I see on Fbook is this? Sorry Maryland, I’m usually a proud alum, but as a mother, I just can’t right now.”

The university and the Board of Regents have been under fire over the course of this year after the death of freshman football player Jordan McNair, who collapsed during a preseason workout last May and died in a hospital about a couple of weeks later. More than an hour went by before 911 was called, according to an independent report on McNair’s case.

The case sparked calls for university President Wallace Loh to resign. Loh survived that round of criticism, but there was a shakeup on the coaching staff.

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