‘Free State Politics’ Episode 9: Maryland’s university system and the pandemic

‘Free State Politics’ Episode 9: Maryland’s university system and the pandemic


Episode 9 of the “Free State Politics” podcast presented by MarylandReporter.com is now available to download. Please subscribe here.

It features award-winning journalist John Rydell and producer Douglas Christian, an independent White House multimedia journalist.

The 17-minute episode features interviews with Kathleen Tracy, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Joann Boughman, senior vice chancellor for academic and students affairs with the University System of Maryland, and Angelique Gingras, a sophomore at the University of Maryland College Park.

Tracy explains the reasons behind the university system’s vaccine mandate for students and staff as well as other mitigation plans that are being put into place. Boughman discusses university enrollment and diversity outreach efforts. Gingras reflects on how the pandemic affected campus life during the previous academic year and discusses what she expects this year to be like.

Tracy says almost all returning students and campus employees must be vaccinated 

“The university system of Maryland made the decision in the spring of 2021 that we would require vaccinations for all students and employees at our campuses who will be returning in the fall of 2021,” she said. “We allow for religious and medical exemptions. But for the most part we are requiring that all students, staff, and faculty be vaccinated if they will be on our campuses for any reason this fall.”

Tracy says the vaccine mandate may help prevent a campus shutdown 

“The reason that we put the mandate in place is that we have highly vaccinated populations, so that any of the positive tests that come up there may be a few among those that have had exemptions. But the chance that we will actually have to shut down is much much smaller, because those who are vaccinated, even they do get the virus will not become severely ill and would not have to have a full two weeks of isolation or quarantine.”

Boughman says the pandemic has not put a dent in university enrollment 

“At least two of our campuses have utilized some of the federal dollars in order to even further support financial aid,” she said. “So some students who thought they might not be able to afford to come back to campus given all of the economic interventions that have happened, will, in fact, be able to come back to campus.”

Boughman says the university system has increased diversity outreach efforts 

“We have been working very hard both in outreach to high schools, but also in close collaboration with our community colleges. We have a huge number of our students that actually started community college and then transferred to our four-year institutions, which, in fact, makes it a very smooth transition for them, and in the long run less expensive.”

Gingras says that last year there was a COVID-19 “outbreak” in her dormitory 

“There was an outbreak in my dorm building, and I managed to escape it, but my first thought was, ‘oh my gosh, am I going to have to quarantine, and, am I going to have to go to the isolation housing? It definitely started to make things easier once they tested students every couple of weeks. They started doing that at the end of the fall semester. And it kind of just gave you this sense of security knowing that you are getting tested and they are staying on top of things.”


The podcast concludes with Rydell’s signature two-minute societal self- reflection: “A Moment of Clarity.”

This week the host discusses the state’s 2022 race for comptroller to succeed incumbent Peter Franchot, who has held the job for 14 years. Franchot is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

The candidates for comptroller are Del. Brooke Lierman of Baltimore City, Bowie Mayor Tim Adams, and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.

Both Lierman and Adams are Democrats. Glassman is a Republican.

No Republican has been elected to the position since the late nineteenth century.

About The Author

Bryan Renbaum


Reporter Bryan Renbaum served as the Capitol Hill Correspondent for Talk Media News for the past three-and-a-half years, filing print, radio and video reports on the Senate and the House of Representatives. He covered congressional reaction to the inauguration of President Donald Trump as well as the confirmation hearings of attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William Barr and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He also filed breaking news reports on the 2017 shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others. Previously Bryan broke multiple stories with the Baltimore Post-Examiner including sexual assault scandals at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a texting scandal on the women’s lacrosse team at that school for which he was interviewed by ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He also covered the Maryland General Assembly during the 2016 legislative session as an intern for Maryland Reporter. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from McDaniel College. If you have additional questions or comments contact Bryan at: bryan@marylandreporter.com

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