|Thanks to a bold marketing stroke, Salvation Springs College in Texas may solve its precarious financial future while simultaneously scoring a diplomatic coup with the government of Saudi Arabia. Last week, college president Gretchen Pragmati announced that the small liberal arts college has offered to outsource a limited number of the kingdom’s legal beheadings, forced amputations and lashings.
“In addition to our subtropical desert climate, folks from the Lone Star state empathize with those struggling with collapsing oil prices. We think this proposal is the remaining missing piece for making SSC the “go to” destination for Saudi students who will feel more at home.” The president went on, “In this highly competitive race for full paying international students this program sets us apart. While no formal agreement has been signed, Pragmati told The Dallas-Fort Worth Tribune, based on my preliminary talks I’m convinced Saudi officials believe this partnering will neutralize some of the negative publicity associated with their judicial system. This is a win-win. If all goes well, starting in September 2016, the college will begin a six-month trial run of corporeal and capital punishments on the Campus Green, quickly dubbed “Lop Lop Square” by students.”
Donating some harvested organs should garner favorable publicity and according to reports, the iced corpses and severed limbs will command top dollar from an unnamed Dallas medical school eager to procure material for student dissection labs. Perhaps revealing a puckish sense of humor, Pragmati told The Tribune “we won’t be accused of leaving any meat on the bone.”
SSC’s Board of Trustees has blessed the proposal, convinced that the notoriety, immediate financial gain and future giving by grateful Saudi alums will mollify a handful of “squeamish” faculty members. Professor Caleb Crutchfield, responding to rumors about faculty misgivings told the newspaper, “We drew a line in the sand. No new staff hires. But given that the Saudis are covering all costs we embraced this new revenue stream as a godsend.” For anyone fretting about complicity in an arguably immoral activity, Dean of Humanities, Dr. David Sealy, noted, “Prior to transport here, each person’s fate will have been legally sealed in-country. We’re only deriving the value added. A bonus is that our domestic students will learn what is consider barbaric behavior by one person is viewed by another as a cherished cultural tradition and as such it merits respect.”
Student body president Will Gore is on board, having already scheduled a referendum to change the college’s mascot from the Fighten’ Prairie Dogs to the edgier Decapitators. Under a photo in the student newspaper featuring Gore sporting a new red and white checked Saudi scarf, he praised Pragmati’s proposal as “hands down, a no-brainer.”
Professor Jane Greenwald, who welcomes the presence of more Saudi students on campus, objects to Riyadh’s prohibition on students registering for courses exposing them to “strange ideas” including ethics, feminist politics, comparative religion, middle east politics, and even music. Greenwald asked, “Doesn’t our submission to this restriction make a mockery of our stated commitment to critical thinking and challenging prior assumptions, the hallmarks of a liberal arts education?” Sealy responded, “It’s a small price to pay for this financial bonanza.”
When queried by ABC affiliate WFDX that the Department of Justice might take exception to the proposal, college spokesperson Herb Fiddle replied, “U.S. officials never utter a word of objection about Saudi Arabia’s internal practices or support for terrorist groups in the Middle East.” Fiddle went on “Given U.S. droning of civilians abroad, secret C.I.A. torture centers and support for brutal dictatorships, we’re confident Washington will adopt a ‘Who Are We to Judge’ posture.” According to sources, similar hands-off sentiment has been voiced by Texas officials, a state that executes more people than the rest of the country combined and the death penalty enjoys wide support.
Finally, in response to Professor Greenwald’s accusation that SSC is “pimping for petrodollars,” President Pragmati replied, “I’m eager to hear other proposals, provided they also kill two birds with one stone. Barring that, other colleges talk the talk, we chop the chop.”
Gary Olson, Ph.D., is a member of Moravian College’s political science department in Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture, and the Brain.