“Talk to any psychologist,” Lubrano said. “They all say the same thing: In order to heal, you have to identify what was causing the pain. It’s clear to me: The pain was caused by the manner in which this was handled, the way Joe Paterno was treated. Until we address that, we’re never going to heal.”
John Cheslock grew up as the son of a football coach in Akron, where people held deep loyalties to Ohio State’s football program. He is also a Penn State professor, married to a Penn State grad whose parents met as Penn State undergrads. So he has, as he said, “a close personal tie to the institution.”
Some of Cheslock’s work has focused on intercollegiate athletics. This fall, he attended a pair of Nittany Lions games. He cannot go just as a fan, because he is an academic, too, and the two cannot be fully separated.
As a faculty member at the Center for the Study of Higher Education, as he had discussed the Sandusky case and Paterno’s ouster and the sanctions with colleagues, Cheslock decided the university’s larger problems were to be solved by the administration and others. He and his wife held difficult conversations with their two young children about child abuse. But his work at the university, and the work of others, moved forward unfettered.
Yet at the early October homecoming game against Northwestern, with 95,679 fans in the stands, it was hard to ignore the focus — the unrelenting focus — on Penn State through the football program. It is territory with which Cheslock is intimately and academically familiar. Yet the scene was striking.
“Everyone knows the world’s sort of watching,” Cheslock said. “So you wonder: How can you simultaneously sort of have a little bit of that emotional release, but you don’t want the world to be interpreting that as, ‘Oh, this is just business as normal’? It makes it a little complicated. How do you simultaneously express that release, but also honor the victims?”
Such themes have come up in Cheslock’s classes. Last spring, a course he teaches on organizational theory in higher education drew a broad representation of students, some who grew up in and around State College and others from far afield. Discussions arose on how the case fit into Penn State’s athletic department, Penn State’s campus, Penn State’s culture.