APSCUF members, students sustain community amid COVID-19 response

As the COVID-19 crisis has forced faculty and coaches to shift their work online, APSCUF’s membership committee has shared stories of how solidarity is keeping our union strong.

Mansfield University Professor Rebecca Parks held a mock driver’s-license test for her daughter’s 16th birthday, as they practice physical distancing. Photo/Submitted

APSCUF faculty, who believe in the tested, tried-and-true practice of in-person education, discussed how they refreshed or learned new skills to transfer coursework online. With the widely practiced change in pedagogy, faculty have scheduled courses with videoconferencing, and coaches are exploring conversations around mental health that inspire student-athletes who are trained to integrate their sport with academic goals, yet not without questions regarding future expectations. Faculty and coaches, even with the NCAA’s ruling to suspend on- and off-campus recruitment, have found an avenue to continue supporting students through this uncertain time.

Here are 16 things APSCUF faculty and coaches are doing to brave a 21st century global pandemic:

  • Bloomsburg University’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Center and IT hosted online learning trainings for a week. Faculty also served as peer-to-peer mentors.
  • Bloomsburg University and West Chester University faculty are using drop-in Zoom sessions to allow students to ask questions to reduce stress related to the coronavirus and their studies.
  • Cheyney University faculty worked together to welcome students back from spring break and to train for an efficient transition to distance learning.
  • Clarion University faculty are doing their part to support the local hospitals. The respiratory-care department loaned ventilators; the nursing department, in partnership with the biology and geosciences department, donated gloves and surgical masks; and the Department of Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics loaned their 3D printer and filament to local hospitals to make disposable parts for needed equipment.
  • East Stroudsburg University’s 3D lab, led by Darlene Farris-Labar, is designing and printing face shields.
  • Dr. Tom White, nursing department chair at Edinboro University, is working at Saint Vincent Health Center as a nurse practitioner.
  • Edinboro APSCUF’s executive council decided to provide gift cards to students remaining on campus in partnership with the Office of Student Affairs.
  • Edinboro University’s communication, journalism, and media department held online training sessions. Viki Hedderick, Edinboro APSCUF’s interim chapter president, asked faculty members who were familiar with teaching online to help faculty who were not.
  • Mansfield University is lending all seven on-campus hospital beds from its nursing lab in Elliot Hall to UPMC Wellsboro as reserve beds, in case the hospital should experience a patient surge due to COVID-19.
  • Mansfield’s Campus Technologies held training sessions on how to use Zoom and move courses online.
  • Professor Rebecca Parks at Mansfield University held a mock driver’s-license test for her daughter’s 16th birthday, as they practice physical distancing.
  • Shippensburg University coaches are working on mental-health checkpoints with student-athletes. This goodwill deed was featured on FOX43.
  • Professor Constance Case at West Chester University is sewing PPE masks. She is working with Professor Victoria Tischio at WCU, Dr. Christine Meyer, and Janiene Pitt from Tandigm Health. She submitted three different prototypes of medical masks.
  • Professor Victoria Tischio at WCU is tracking students who need internet hotspots to complete course assignments.
  • Faculty at West Chester University are interfacing with one another through email and Facebook to share ideas on distance learning and how to convert courses to an online format.
  • West Chester University is offering daily webinars about Zoom, functionality in D2L, and Kaltura. A survey is being circulated for faculty to share the types of additional support needed for students.

Since self-care is essential, APSCUF members are driving back roads to clear their minds on the way to getting groceries, doing jigsaw puzzles, starting online book groups, and sometimes concluding their workday with their favorite apéritif. APSCUF staff are making facemasks, homemade soap, and starting a vegetable garden for sustainable wellness.

The resilience of our community shines through tremendously in students, too. At Clarion and Kutztown universities, students are helping to make masks for local hospitals, and a student from Mansfield is active in the out-of-school early learning and preschool community in the area using a video-sharing platform for interactive storytelling.

To share a story of how you are lending your expertise and talents during this time of change, please send a short description of the activity you are involved in as a faculty, coach, or APSCUF ally. Tell us who you are and what you are doing to positively impact your university and the community around you. Please include a photo and caption information, too. You also can tag APSCUF on Twitter and Facebook and use #APSCUFproud.

Chabria Thomas,
director of organizing

Tools, changes can help your health during pandemic


Members: Stay up to date with health benefits-related announcements by clicking here. We’ve compiled some specifics and recent changes to your benefits.


Highmark is covering all COVID-19 testing at 100% when recommended by a medical professional. That means copays, deductibles, and coinsurance do not apply for most plans.


Be smart and check your supply of prescription medicines. If you have prescription coverage through Highmark, you can now obtain 30-day refills for your maintenance medications before their refill date — your plan will cover these refills. Your pharmacist can help you get additional refills. We also encourage you to take advantage of the 90-day mail order refill benefit that most plans now offer.


Effective March 21, the Highmark Blue Shield PPO plan includes an in-network telemedicine benefit, which allows you to have a live virtual visit with a healthcare provider. For a limited time, the $10 virtual visit member copay will be waived for Highmark’s telemedicine vendors. This includes mental and physical health.

The UPMC HMO plan already includes live virtual visits. Between now and June 11, 2020, the $20 member copay for AnywhereCare visits is waived.

United Concordia Dentistry offers teledentistry to all of its groups. Currently, most providers are only seeing patients for emergencies. For guidance on determining if your dental concern qualifies as an emergency, click here.


Healthcare coverage for enrolled dependents who turned age 26 in March 2020 will be extended through May 31, 2020. Similarly, healthcare coverage for enrolled dependents who turn age 26 in April 2020 will be extended through June 30, 2020. There is no action for you to take for your dependent’s coverage to continue.

Dental and vision benefits for enrolled dependents who turned 26 in March 2020 and those who will turn 26 in April 2020 will be extended by two months (May 31 and June 30 respectively). The Health & Welfare Fund acknowledges that it may take some time to implement this change.


Finally, for those who have not yet completed Healthy U, the requirement has been changed to the RealAge Test only. Please refer to the April 1 email sent by State System Employee Benefits for more information.

Bim Arthun,
director of membership services

Questions about coronavirus on your campus? Your university is the best source

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Photo/Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM via Public Health Image Library

Individual Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education universities determine their COVID-19-related closures, moves online, and other changes. For questions about your campus’ plans or protocol, please contact your university. Find links to university COVID-19 pages on this State System page.

Take a moment to advocate for affordable college and less student debt


We’d planned to post today about an April rally in support of Gov. Tom Wolf’s Nellie Bly Scholarship program, proposed in his 2020–21 budget. Wolf’s plan would provide scholarships to Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education students and help graduates earn their degrees with little to no student debt.

But with ongoing uncertainty and safety issues of COVID-19, we decided today to stop planning and to cancel the rally.

Our devotion to providing affordable, quality public higher education has not dwindled, however, and we remain strong supporters of Wolf’s plan (as well as Pennsylvania Promise legislation already in the Pennsylvania House and Senate). While you can cross our April rally off your calendar, there are still ways you can continue to advocate for the Nellie Bly plan:

  • Sign our petition in support of the rally
  • Share your story/support on social media. Use #fundPAfuture (and #NellieBlyScholarship, too, if you have space) and let everyone know why you support the Nellie Bly Scholarship.
  • Share your story with APSCUF. Email outlining how a $10,000 scholarship would help you and what having less college debt would mean to you.
  • Contact your legislators and tell them to support the Nellie Bly Scholarship plan. Click here to find your legislators.

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