Former FIU Architecture Dean Accused of Raping Student on Study-Abroad Trip

Adam Drisin, former senior associate dean of architecture at Florida International University, is accused in a new federal lawsuit of sexually battery a female student during a study-abroad trip to Genoa, Italy.
Adam Drisin, former senior associate dean of architecture at Florida International University, is accused in a new federal lawsuit of sexually battery a female student during a study-abroad trip to Genoa, Italy.
via FIU

At the end of a semester-long study-abroad program in Genoa, Italy, in December 2014, a group of architecture students from Florida International University went out for a celebratory dinner. After the meal, many students and a handful of faculty members grabbed drinks at a local bar. At 2 a.m., three of the students were ready to leave.

According to one of those students, Adam Drisin, then FIU's senior associate dean of architecture, asked if the students could walk him back to his apartment. Inside, Drisin offered the students some Baileys liqueur, which they all drank.

That's when the night out with a professor turned into a sexual assault. At least that's what one student alleges in a new federal lawsuit against Drisin filed in the U.S. Southern District of Florida. 

Reached by New Times, Drisin  — who left FIU last year — denies the allegations. "It's a frivolous lawsuit," he tells New Times. "Everything in it is inaccurate." 

The student's claims are a blow to one of FIU's premier schools and to a fast-rising academic. Drisin earned degrees from Cornell and Harvard, where he also taught before joining FIU in August 2004. He served as chair and director of FIU's School of Architecture before rising to senior associate dean of the College of Architecture and the Arts.  

In December 2014, he visited Genoa to check on a group of students in the program. The lawsuit lays out a stark narrative of assault against an unnamed female student following that night of drinking. 

According to the complaint filed by Brickell attorney Omar Malone, after drinking the Baileys, one of the three students who went home with Drisin fell asleep at the foot of his bed. Another was awoken by her two friends the next morning.

She was naked in Drisin's bed, her attorney alleges in the lawsuit, with no recollection of what had happened the previous night. The woman was wearing a tampon that night and says when she woke up, it was lodged deep inside of her. It was then she realized she'd been raped, she alleges. 

In the lawsuit, the student suggests the women may have been incapacitated in Drisin's apartment "as result of a foreign substance being put in [their] Baileys."

Back at her apartment that morning, the woman confided in a friend and asked for advice about how to report the incident. Later that day, she spoke via Skype with one of her professors, who immediately informed FIU officials.

FIU declined to provide New Times with any records connected to the case or Drisin's employment, citing an ongoing investigation. It's not clear whether Italian police were involved in the case; the student's attorney says no police reports were filed. FIU Police, meanwhile, were unable to locate a report relating to the student's claim.

The lawsuit does contain excerpts from emails that Drisin allegedly sent the next day. In one message sent around 4:30 p.m. that next day, the dean tells the student, "I feel terrible right now," and asks if he could meet up to speak with her and one of the other students.

"I owe you both something important and I need to deliver it to you in person before you leave and before I leave. I know this is not easy, but I’m asking that you please indulge me," Drisin allegedly writes in the email.

Drisin sent a second email later that night, according to Malone, asking another of the students if they could meet up for coffee. 

"Today has been a very difficult day for me," he writes, according to a screenshot of the email. "As you might imagine, I need to talk with you and this is not easy."

Malone, the student's attorney, says he is still trying to contact the other two women who were in Drisin's apartment the night of the alleged assault. He said he has information suggesting one of them was in a romantic relationship with Drisin and believes she may have been a witness to the alleged crime.

Drisin left FIU September 14, 2015. At that time, his annual salary was $110,093. School officials declined to give the reason for his departure or provide information about the university's investigation into the alleged assault, saying it is ongoing and active.

Since leaving FIU, Drisin has applied for jobs with at least two other architecture schools. Late last week, he was served with the lawsuit for sexual battery while on campus at University of Nebraska-Lincoln interviewing for dean of the university’s College of Architecture. He is one of four finalists for the job, according to UNL.

Drisin also interviewed for a dean position at Texas Tech University’s College of Architecture in January. A news alert from the university says he was one of two candidates.

Representatives from both schools have yet to respond to requests for comment from New Times. We'll update this post with their responses if we hear back.

Drisin said he had not yet retained a lawyer and declined to comment further on the allegations. As of Thursday, he has not filed a response in federal court.


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