Marta Kauffman, co-creator of the iconic sitcom Friends, has pledged $4 million to her alma mater, Brandeis University, to apologize for the show’s lack of diversity.
The donation will go toward an endowed professorship in Brandeis’s Department of African and African American studies.
The Marta F. Kauffman Professorship in African and African American Studies will fund a researcher specializing in African civilizations, according to the institution. The donation will also assist the department in hiring more professors and researchers and increase students’ chances to participate in interdisciplinary research.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years,” Kauffman said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know better 25 years ago.”
‘Difficult and Frustrating’
The highly-popular sitcom about a group of close friends was an instant hit when it debuted in 1994 and has remained one of TV’s most popular shows since it ended in 2004 after 10 seasons.
Despite its popularity, the sitcom experienced backlash over the years for its lack of diversity. Many viewers questioned how the characters could live in a predominantly white atmosphere while the show was set in New York City.
It was “difficult and frustrating,” according to Kauffman, who said she came to see the show’s flaws more clearly in the aftermath of the worldwide protests that erupted after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. That realization served as the impetus for her decision to donate to the Boston institution.
Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz said the professorship is “meaningful to both the African and African American Studies Department and to the university.”
“It is the first endowed professorship in the program, which means it will ensure the study of African and African American culture, history, and politics for generations of Brandeis students—something more critical than ever.”