Martinez, Parsi discuss campaign at ASWSU multicultural debate

Candidates plan to work on payment for undocumented students, sexual assault transparency, increasing mental health resources



Jacob Martinez speaks during the ASWSU multicultural debate on March 21 in the CUB Senior Ballroom.

MOLLY WILK, Evergreen reporter

ASWSU presidential and vice-presidential candidates Jacob Martinez and Kiana Parsi discussed their experiences feeling underrepresented and their goals to increase representation for multicultural groups at the ASWSU multicultural debate Monday evening. 

Experience feeling underrepresented 

After finishing elementary school, Martinez said he moved to a predominantly white area. As a Hispanic person, he said he felt like he did not fit in and was unwelcome.

After some time, Martinez said he found his group of friends. He said he believes this experience will help him make campus feel more like a community and a safe place for everyone. 

As an out-of-state student, Martinez said it was a hard transition coming to Pullman, where he did not know anyone. He applied for the ASWSU freshman delegate position because he felt it was the perfect opportunity to get involved. 

That experience helped him learn the ins and outs of ASWSU, and he said he believes it will help him make a lot of changes if elected. 

Martinez said he has also struggled to feel connected with his community because he does not speak Spanish. He started taking Spanish classes at WSU and has turned to his grandfather for ways to feel more connected.

After immigrating to the U.S. from Iran when she was 6 years old, Parsi said she moved around and always had trouble making friends at a new school. Parsi said she holds a special place in her heart for international and undocumented students who know what it is like to come from a home that does not speak English. 

Through this experience, she learned she is the only permanent thing in her life and that her opinion of herself is what matters above anyone else’s, she said. 

During her freshman year, Parsi struggled to keep up with the amount of essay writing in her history class. When she asked for help, Parsi said she was sent to the WSU Writing Center. However, she was only able to figure out what she was doing wrong with the help of her peers. 

This year she learned about a center on campus that helps with this specific issue and wants to make resources such as this one more accessible. 

Kiana Parsi speaks during the ASWSU multicultural debate on March 21, 2022 in the Compton Union Building Senior Ballroom.

Plans for multicultural engagement

Martinez and Parsi plan to attend multicultural committee meetings to build a better relationship with the multicultural community. It is important to attend these meetings to ensure important information from ASWSU is reaching multicultural groups across campus, Martinez said. 

Attending these meetings and increasing outreach will build trust between the two communities, encouraging open communication and helping the multicultural community feel comfortable reaching out when there are issues, Parsi said. 

“One thing that hasn’t changed is that when [ASWSU staff] goes to these multicultural committee meetings, we’ll be sitting in the back,” Martinez said. “I know that Kiana and I will be upfront, in the middle, talking to everyone.”

Parsi said that beyond making a professional connection, she hopes to be friends with the individuals in multicultural committees to increase communication and to get to know these groups personally. 

The candidates stressed the importance of diverse executive staff to increase representation for all groups on campus. 


Martinez said it is important to work closely with all of the committees under ASWSU to keep everyone updated on current projects and things going on behind the scenes.

If the student body ever feels executive members are not doing their job, Parsi said she wants students to speak up. 

“I would hope that you guys would complain,” she said. “You would come banging on the door or send an angry email or do something to complain because if you see that no one’s holding each other accountable … you should say something. Use your voice.” 

The two said their biggest failure in the past year was not attending enough multicultural committee meetings in the past. 

To change that, they plan to create a bylaw requiring senators to attend one meeting per week in place of their currently required out-of-office hour, Martinez said. 

Making ASWSU more diverse 

People of color make up 28.5% of the WSU student body, Martinez said. He believes the current multicultural representation of ASWSU does not display that diversity. 

Martinez and Parsi’s campaign team was built to show that they are dedicated to creating a more diverse team and are following through on what they preach during debates, Parsi said. 

In light of recent allegations of homophobic comments made on the current executive staff, Parsi said she would not stand for anything similar on her executive team. 

If there was enough proof or witnesses, Parsi said she would have the individual removed from her staff immediately. 

Martinez said he would like to hold an executive staff bonding to help the team understand everyone’s different backgrounds to avoid issues such as this. 

Campaign priorities 

The two said their top three initiatives if elected are sexual assault transparency, payment for undocumented students and increasing mental health resources on campus. 

They are currently working with the school to see if an online network of therapists could be an option to provide more one-on-one counseling sessions for students, Martinez said. This would also shorten the current waiting list at Counseling and Psychological Services. 

Helping undocumented students receive payment is very important to them because they know how hard these students work and want to see them rewarded for that, Parsi said. She said it is important to ensure that if a member of their executive team is undocumented, they can be paid.

When asked to discuss the most admirable traits of the opposing ticket, presidential candidate Sydney Finch said she admires the pair’s dedication to building relationships with students on campus and advocating for them. She said their commitment is something they should be proud of. 

Vice-presidential candidate Kjelt Visser said he has seen them show a lot of initiative and gives them credit for keeping up with the very stressful campaign.