The United States faces many threats from foreign adversaries, including economic espionage, which costs the American economy billions of dollars each year. A growing threat can be found in the U.S. academic environment. American universities, including the University of Wisconsin, are world-renowned for innovation in scientific and technological discoveries. Because of that reputation, universities across the nation have become soft targets for those who wish to exploit their openness and do them harm.

These threats must not be taken lightly. The FBI, other agencies, and experts in the field have warned universities about espionage and have made recommendations to tighten security.

The Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges is charged with the oversight of Wisconsin’s higher education systems. In general the committee gathers information, reviews proposals, and recommends legislation in response to issues pertaining to institutions of higher education and their students.

Because of the growing number of reports in recent years of security issues related to foreign interference at universities around the nation, Senator Roger Roth, chair of the committee, scheduled an informational hearing on the topic of “International Security in Institutions of
Higher Education” in October 2021. Senator Roth called on experts in the field to present their findings to the committee and offer recommendations to increase security in order to protect sensitive research, intellectual property, and the campus community.

This report summarizes the information gathered in the hearing, presents recommendations, and offers the committee’s intent in pursuing legislation.