Maryland’s governor asked the state university system’s Board of Regents to launch an investigation into the response by College Park officials to an adenovirus outbreak last fall that claimed the life of a freshman student, Olivia Paregol.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) sent a letter to the Regents’ office on Thursday afternoon, urging an immediate investigation into the events surrounding the outbreak and the handling of Paregol’s death.
“The Paregol family’s grief has been considerably worsened by the lack of urgency – and lack of transparency – shown by university officials before and after Olivia’s death. There are serious questions about how this happened, and the families who entrust their children to your care deserve tour assurance that they will receive answers,” Hogan wrote.
Details of the university’s response were chronicled earlier this month in the article “A dangerous delay,” by The Washington Post, which filed Maryland Public Information Act requests to create a timeline of the adenovirus spread on campus last fall as well as Paregol’s medical treatment, which could have been altered to save her life if doctors outside the university had been made aware of the outbreak. Paregol was living in a university dorm infested with mold and was treated for bacterial illnesses, while an anti-viral medication might have helped her condition, the Post reported.
WTOP reported last week that the Paregol family is taking steps to sue the state for their daughter’s death.
“It appears that, at just about every turn, leaders withheld information instead of being open and honest with the student body,” Hogan wrote. “There must be a full review of these decisions, and of the officials who made them.”
Hogan said the Regents’ investigation should include a review of the university’s health center and that the findings of the investigation should be made public.
“If any officials are found to have been negligent, it is vital that you take swift action,” Hogan wrote.
Such an investigation would be the second undertaken following a College Park student’s death in the past year. Football player Jordan McNair died last June from heatstroke after a May practice. An independent review of the incident found that athletic trainers failed to follow accepted protocols for treating heatstroke and delayed in calling 911.
“Unfortunately, I am deeply concerned that the University learned nothing from that troubling and tragic episode,” Hogan wrote.
McNair’s death also led to a review of Regents’ practices by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, which concluded that the panel lacked transparency and leadership as a series of personnel decisions – including to reinstate football coach DJ Durkin, who was later fired by the College Park president – roiled students and the state.
Since the late October personnel decisions, former Board of Regents chairman James T. Brady stepped down from the board and was replaced by Linda Gooden, who committed to reforms and supported legislation in Annapolis this year that will require more openness from an expanded board beginning July 1.
The AGB report also encouraged the Regents to act with more transparency in a bid to regain public trust.
The day after the Post story on Paregol’s death was published, the Regents held a closed session meeting “regarding a student matter at UMCP involving potential litigation.” The Regents also met in closed session last week to discuss the same thing, as well as implementation of the AGB recommendations and legislative actions.
Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel), vice-chair of the House Health and Government Operations Committee, said in an interview that she plans to introduce a bill next year that would require greater public warnings during adenovirus outbreaks. She said Thursday that she is working with county health officers and others on wording of the legislation this summer.