Palm Springs resident’s revelation was key moment leading to $490 million settlement with university
A brave first step by a Palm Springs resident in 2020 marked a turning point that eventually led to Wednesday’s announcement that the University of Michigan will pay $490 million to settle abuse cases brought by more than 1,000 people.
Robert Stone, an author, film critic, and community advocate who ran for Palm Springs City Council in 2017, was the first to come forward publicly — in February 2020 — sharing his story of sexual abuse by a university doctor in the 1970s. More than 1,000 others followed, leading to 2,100 individual reports of abuse and rape by the doctor.
The university had been in mediation to resolve multiple lawsuits by Stone and others, primarily men, who said the doctor sexually abused them during routine medical examinations. The doctor worked at the university from 1966 until his 2003 retirement and was director of the university’s Health Service and a physician for multiple athletic teams, including football. He died in 2008.
On Wednesday, following private talks that concluded this week, the university announced the settlement. It comes more than three years after a former student wrote to Michigan’s athletic director and reported the misconduct and nearly two years after Stone first publicly told his story.
Stone communicated briefly through email with The Post on Wednesday, saying that now that the case was settled, he was comfortable with the community knowing his role in the nationwide story. He earlier revealed details of that story, and his emotional journey following the abuse, to publications in both an Ann Arbor, Mich., and the UK.
“He was just a disgusting human being,” Stone said of the doctor in an interview with UK-based PinkNews. “And what he put us through was so traumatizing.
“I remember when I walked out of that exam room, I was so disgusted. And I was so angry. And I’m still angry. Fifty years later, I’m still carrying this anger.”
The agreement is one of the largest by an American university to settle sexual abuse allegations. In 2020, the university acknowledged it was investigating claims against the doctor and asked people who believed they were victims to come forward. In May 2021, a law firm hired by the university concluded that the doctor had “engaged in sexual misconduct with patients on countless occasions.”
“We hope this settlement will begin the healing process for survivors,” said Jordan Acker, chair of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, in a prepared statement. “At the same time, the work that began two years ago, when the first brave survivors came forward, will continue.”
WARNING OVER SIGN HOLDERS: The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is warning the community about people at busy intersections and parking lots, including some in Palm Springs, seen holding signs asking for donations. “We received several complaints of people in the roadway causing traffic to back up by asking for donations — for funerals, surgeries, medical bills, or anything that tugs on your heartstrings,” the department wrote in a social media post. “In most cases, it’s a scam. [And] in some instances, it can involve human trafficking.” In a case earlier this month, deputies said they interviewed people holding signs at one intersection in the county and discovered their story was false. Two adults were arrested on suspicion of soliciting and theft by false pretenses, but not before they had collected nearly $600. If you’re feeling charitable, authorities advise you to donate directly to a charitable services provider and not a stranger holding a sign at an intersection or the parking lot of a grocery store or other business.
DOWNTOWN STREET WORK TODAY: The removal of cement barriers surrounding some parklets on the main street through Downtown Palm Springs necessitates repairs and repainting, city staff reported Wednesday. That work will be done today. From 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., expect crews to be working along South Palm Canyon Drive between Tahquitz Canyon Way and Arenas Road, and then between Arenas and Baristo roads. Crews will be working to repaint stripes and clean the roadways, causing temporary closures. “The plan is to start at South Palm Canyon and Tahquitz to Arenas first,” said Maintenance and Facilities Director Staci Schafer. “As always, if there is any opportunity to reopen any lanes or intersections sooner, that will be done.”
BIKE EVENT: Registration for the annual Tour de Palm Springs, planned for Feb. 12, remains open. The event features both walking and cycling routes, some as long as 100 miles, kicking off at between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. All of the routes start and finish on South Palm Canyon Drive near Tahquitz Canyon Way. More information about the event, which draws up to 10,000 cyclists annually, can be found here.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers 13 classes and programs today, starting at 8 a.m.. You can find a complete list of all today’s activities online here.
WOMEN’S CHAT: The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all women — no matter how you identify — to discuss topics of interest and find connections every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. You can find information about the event here.
STORY TIME: Librarian Nancy Valdivia reads stories, sings songs and shows early learning concepts (Wednesdays in Spanish and Thursdays in English), starting at 10:30 a.m. You can watch the videos on YouTube here.
FREE MUSEUM ADMISSION: The Palm Springs Art Museum offers free admission from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are required and can be obtained here.
VILLAGEFEST: The city’s weekly outdoor street fair takes place at 6 p.m. on Palm Canyon Drive downtown. The event includes vendor booths on both sides of the street, which is closed to vehicular traffic.
Need to get tested for COVID-19 but can’t find an at-home test and don’t know where to turn? Aside from asking your regular healthcare provider (if you have one), The Post maintains a list of places in and around the city that you can check. Click the following link to see the list, and please note the information is accurate at the time this email was sent, but may change.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
COMMUNITY CLEANUP: The first Community Cleanup of 2022 will be held Saturday, Jan. 22. Organizers with the Community Partnership on Homelessness (CPOH) encourage anyone who wants to help beautify the city to meet at the KFC parking lot at 725 South Palm Canyon Dr., at 8 a.m. Trash bags, disposable gloves, and water will be available. Closed-toed shoes and thicker gloves are recommended for your protection.
DISTRICT 1 MEETING: Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner is hosting a District 1 Town Hall on Saturday, Jan. 22, starting at 1 p.m. The event will be held via Zoom, using this link. During the meeting, the City Clerk will discuss redistricting and Garner will update constituents on matters of importance to them. She will also listen as residents discuss their concerns.
BENEFIT FOR INSTRUMENTS: An online benefit to raise money to purchase musical instruments for 3rd, 4th, and 5th-grade students in the Palm Springs Unified School District is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 22. LA Phil Affiliates in the Desert and the PSUSD Foundation will host the event on Zoom at 3 p.m. as part of the Zoom Salon Series. Featured will be saxophonist Vasti Andrade, a senior at Desert Hot Springs High School who has played the saxophone since 6th grade. More information about the event, including how to register, can be found here.
SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE: The Coachella Valley Symphony performs at 3 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater, 101 Museum Drive. Tickets range from $35 to $65 and can be purchased at the symphony’s website: www.CVSymphony.com
HBCU TOURS: The African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) of the Palm Springs Unified School District recently announced two dozen students will be able to attend a tour of Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in April completely free of charge. The deadline for application to attend the tour is Jan. 31. Selected students will fly with approved chaperones to Washington DC and visit several HBCU’s and landmarks in the surrounding area. An application form is available here, and a permission slip for the tour is available here.
‘LEZ OUT LOUD’ SHOW: A few tickets for Mina Hartong’s next Lez Out Loud performance remain. The show, planned for Feb. 9 at Runway Bar & Restaurant, 68300 Gay Resort Dr. in Cathedral City, benefits The L-Fund, a community service organization providing emergency financial assistance to cis and trans lesbians in crisis across the Coachella Valley since 2012. Interested in tickets? Head over to this page for details and prices.