Plus: new Planet Fitness CEO steps into a culture war; the economy is split between haves and have-nots.

An order of nuns associated with Benedictine College has distanced itself with a recent commencement speech that has drawn national attention to the tiny Catholic liberal arts college in Kansas.

Last week, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker addressed graduates by discussing a number of hot-button topics, including “the tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion,” COVID-lockdowns and LGBTQ+ Pride. But the comments that drew the most attention were those addressed to women in the audience, whom he said had been told “diabolical lies” and that, on the day they received their degree, were “most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.”

 

 

Many took exception to those comments, including the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Scholastica, who helped found the college and maintain an active role in campus life today.

In a Facebook post, the sisters wrote that Butker’s comments do not “represent the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college that our founders envisioned and in which we have been so invested.”

It notes that its own sisters, who are not wives and mothers in a traditional sense, have used their talents to serve in other ways.

“Our community has taught young women and men not just how to be ‘homemakers’ in a limited sense, but rather how to make a Gospel-centered, compassionate home within themselves where they can welcome others as Christ, empowering them to be the best versions of themselves.”

It’s important to note that while the sisters are involved in the school, they do not represent the administration itself. The college has issued no formal statement since the speech, though a single post on its News page surfaces a speech from the late Pope John Paul II, praising “the diverse vocations of women,” seems to obliquely address the furor. Meanwhile, the NFL issued a statement noting that Butker’s comments were made “in a personal capacity” and do not reflect the stances of the league.

Why it matters: The college of just over 2,000 students was rocketed from national obscurity to talking point overnight thanks to Butker’s speech. What happens next and how the college and community respond could have huge impacts on the future of the institution. Will it swell with students thanks to the notoriety? Will current students be alienated by the administration’s silence? Or, in the most likely scenario, will it be a little of Column A, a little of Column B?

As a Catholic institution, Benedictine College has its own unique mission and values to uphold. But the sisters’ dissent makes it clear that there is no monolithic consensus about the issues Butker raised in his speech. But their statement was clear, polite and firm as it celebrated the role of all women, regardless of the family path they choose in life.

Meanwhile, the college’s own silence rings.

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • In other culture war news, Planet Fitness is welcoming a new CEO at an inflection point for the gym chain. Its decision to stick by its policy of allowing people to use whichever locker room fits their gender identity has drawn criticism, boycotts and bomb threats, the Wall Street Journal reported. After a photo of a trans person in a locker room went viral, Planet Fitness saw a dip in new registrations and a bump in cancellations. Now CEO-to-be Colleen Keating will step into the aftermath of that decision. She also faces reactions to the first price increase the chain has seen in years. It’s a challenging environment and one that will need a deft communications strategy to pull off.
  • America’s mixed, confusing economic environment is getting even more muddled. As earnings season rolls on, some major companies — think McDonald’s, Starbucks and Home Depot — are reporting earnings dips. But others — Delta Airlines, Chipotle and Sweetgreen — are still roaring along. CNBC notes that lower-income earners in particular are pulling back from many purchases, or at the least becoming more discerning about where they spend their cash. Meanwhile, higher-income earners continue to spend on fast-casual food and travel. Price consciousness is back in as the toll of years of grinding inflation truly sets in. It’s a time to think strategically and ensure you understand who your customer is, what their relationship to the economy is and what your unique value proposition is.
  • Gregory Hinton, dubbed “the godfather of AI,” is warning that the technology he helped birth will take jobs and has urged the U.K. government to implement a universal basic income, the BBC reports. Hinton’s support for the policy hinges on his belief that AI will take “lots of mundane jobs” and leave many without an ability to earn a living. Meanwhile, he says the benefits of AI will enrich the wealthy segments of society. While the U.K. says they have no plans to implement UBI any time soon, it’s another twist in the saga of AI. Will it take our jobs? Will it free us up for higher-level jobs? Will it destroy the world or birth a new utopia? The answer is likely somewhere in between.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on or LinkedIn.

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