A Weber State University administrator and four students will be flying to Lithuania Monday to help establish a student government and newspaper at a university.
The group will be traveling to Vytautas Magnus University, the only private institution of higher education in the Soviet Union and a sister school to Weber State. The university is located in Kaunas, the capital of Lithuania.Making the journey will be Robert Smith, vice president of academic affairs; Necia Palmer, Weber State Signpost editor-in-chief; Jill Fifield, former student body vice president; Shane Stewart, 1991-92 student body president; and Gary Smith, who will be filming the experience for a documentary to be aired on PBS.
Palmer said the purpose of the trip is to teach Lithuanian students how to run a newspaper and establish a democratic government.
She said the group will spend about 10 days there. Airline tickets alone cost the group $8,000, which is being appropriated from student fees and from the administration. "We will be staying with the people over there," she explained.
"This is the only school in the Soviet Union that is set up with Western principles," said Palmer. "It teaches liberal arts. Basically, it teaches people how to think."
The 24-year-old editor of the student newspaper said she is excited about the trip.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said. "I hope to give them enough information so they can start printing their own newspaper based on free principles. I want it to be a student newspaper with no censorship or faculty interference."
Palmer said that Magnus University has neither a newspaper nor a student government.
Fifield said she feels a bit "overwhelmed" but that the trip will be a learning experience for her.
The 22-year-old former student body officer and public relations director for the Weber State student radio station KWCR said she and Stewart plan to set up seminars at Magnus University to explain how Western government works.
Fifield said they will explain how the U.S. government works and how bills get passed and then give the students information on how to set up charters and constitutions.
"The students there are thirsty for knowledge," said Fifield. "This (United States) is a free society. I want to share my values with them. I hope somehow I can help them in their struggles."
Palmer said Weber State students have been donating school supplies to be given to to the Lithuanian students. She said Lithuanian students are amazed that pencils come with erasers. She also said that the group will be giving the students a $4,500 computer and $1,500 worth of software.