Obama appointee, GWU professor talks ethics in political communication

Peter Lodge of George Washington University lectures on the teaching of political communication ethics during lunchtime on Thursday. (Photo by Maggie Chafouleas/The Daily Campus)

A George Washington University (GWU) professor spoke on the importance of teaching ethics to political science students at the University of Connecticut’s Oak Hall Thursday afternoon.

Peter Loge, an associate professor in the GWU School of Media and Public Affairs, lamented the lack of ethics classes in higher education, noting multiple colleges and universities - including UConn and GWU - that have few to no classes on ethics in political communication and government.

“If you Google ‘political communication ethics syllabus,’ an alarming number of the results are me. That’s not good news,” Loge said. “I think it’s time that political communication follow business journalism, medicine and public relations to make ethics something we take seriously.”

Loge, who was appointed by then-President Obama to a communications role in the Food and Drug Administration and held other high-level political communication jobs, said the teaching of ethical political communication at the collegiate level would better prepare future political operatives to recognize politics involves more than just partisan fighting, campaigning and winning elections.

“We don’t teach our students, the future political leaders, that there’s more at stake than Tuesday’s election. That Tuesday’s election only matters because of what happens on Jan. 15, when the new representatives are sworn in,” Loge said. “We don’t teach our students that something matters beyond cliques and ‘owning the libs.’”

Loge said one challenge that comes with attempting to behave in an ethical manner is that not everyone’s definition of ethical behavior is the same.

“Rhetoric is or ought to be about the nature of the good, and that applied, one could use rhetoric to achieve or draw out the good,” Loge said. “But there’s no universal good, or if there is a universal good we can’t understand it or comprehend it.”

When asked when individuals should begin learning about ethics, Loge said one should learn how to be a citizen “from the word ‘go.’”

“I think schools should honestly teach citizenship- not just through the three branches of government, but if you see a wrong, to correct it. I think in high school you should learn civics. I think (schools) should teach debate,” Loge said.

Loge also commented on the need for a functional society to have opposing viewpoints, saying our society functions because people debate each other and vote instead of beating each other up.

“At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work,” Loge said. “I think of course someone in this room should have a MAGA hat. And I think they shouldn’t be assaulted. They should be questioned, just like the people wearing a Kamala or Bernie Sanders hat.”

Arlene Once, a fifth-semester political science major, said she learned a lot from Loge’s talk and said she would have liked to take his class.

“I learned that I need to take an ethics course that can really widen my perspective on politics in college,” Once said.


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.