The statement above is so important to UW–Madison that it has been called the “Wisconsin Magna Carta.” It is a call for academic freedom and for the fearless pursuit of knowledge. Sifting & Reckoning is inspired by the university’s commitment to “sifting and winnowing”—to the pursuit of truth, wherever it can be found.
Not everyone has been able to fully participate in the pursuit of knowledge. Like all universities, UW–Madison has not always been a welcoming place for everyone. Histories of exclusion have shaped how people have studied and lived here, and who could be here at all.
Yet, across the university’s history, campus community members have pushed back against exclusion and prejudice. Sifting & Reckoning lays bare the forces that limited equal opportunity in education. It also documents the ways that students, faculty, and staff pressed back against those limits and tried to claim an equal place on campus.
The histories in Sifting & Reckoning continue to shape life on our campus. Without understanding these histories, we cannot overcome them. It is up to us as a community to confront the legacies of the past, to remember the people who endured and resisted exclusion and prejudice here, and to commit ourselves to a different future—one that strives to make real, in the words of UW–Madison’s own mission statement, “the ideals of a pluralistic, multiracial, open, and democratic society.”
The history presented in Sifting & Reckoning is not complete. Not everyone’s voice has yet been heard, and many histories remain undocumented and unexplored. We invite you to become part of this process—to help us sift and reckon our way to a fuller and truer history of UW–Madison.
Read Frequently Asked Questions about the project