'Friends' Co-Creator Makes $4 Million Donation After Being 'Embarrassed' by Show's Lack of Diversity

Marta Kauffman announced that she's donating $4 million to African American studies.

Marta Kauffman is donating millions in response to Friends' lack of diversity. Earlier this month, Brandeis University, Kauffman's alma mater, announced that the sitcom's co-creator has pledged $4 million to establish an endowed professorship in the school's African and African American Studies Department.

"It took me a long time to begin to understand how I internalized systemic racism," Kauffman told the university. "I’ve been working really hard to become an ally, an anti-racist. And this seemed to me to be a way that I could participate in the conversation from a white woman’s perspective."

The Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies will support a distinguished scholar with a concentration in the study of the peoples and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora. The gift will also help the department to recruit more expert scholars and teachers, map long-term academic and research priorities and provide new opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship. 

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After her gift was announced, Kauffman told The Los Angeles Times how the lack of diversity on Friends inspired her donation.

"I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years," she told the outlet. "Admitting and accepting guilt is not easy. It’s painful looking at yourself in the mirror. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago."

Kauffman added that she began to reexamine Friends' lack of diversity after George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by a white police officer in 2020.

"It was after what happened to George Floyd that I began to wrestle with my having bought into systemic racism in ways I was never aware of," she said. "That was really the moment that I began to examine the ways I had participated. I knew then I needed to course-correct."

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Now, Kauffman said, "I’m finally, literally putting my money where my mouth is." Through her gift, Kauffman believes she "was finally able to make some difference in the conversation."

"I have to say, after agreeing to this and when I stopped sweating, it didn’t unburden me, but it lifted me up," she said of donating millions. "But until in my next production I can do it right, it isn’t over. I want to make sure from now on in every production I do that I am conscious in hiring people of color and actively pursue young writers of color. I want to know I will act differently from now on. And then I will feel unburdened."

As for the public's response to her gift, Kauffman said she's "gotten nothing but love."

"It’s been amazing. It surprised me to some extent, because I didn’t expect the news to go this wide. I’ve gotten a flood of emails and texts and posts that have been nothing but supportive," she said. "I’ve gotten a lot of 'It’s about time.' Not in a mean way. It’s just people acknowledging it was long overdue."