University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Administrative Policy Statement

Records Management Services

(Approved by the Executive Vice President by authority of Administrative Order No. 9)

1.  Authority

Required by Chapter 40.14 RCW, Records Management Services manages and oversees University compliance with state and federal laws and regulations relating to the preservation and destruction of electronic and paper information.

The program is the legal authority, designated by the University and by the state of Washington, which determines how long electronic and paper records and information must be retained. The office is responsible for developing Records Retention Schedules that identify records created or received by the University and specify how long those records must be retained. It is responsible for establishing standards, policy, and procedure relating to University business requirements and needs, which ensure the legal legitimacy of University record-keeping systems. The program counsels and advises the University administration on the implementation of policy and procedure which promotes adherence to these standards and minimizes risk. It provides a wide range of services which are designed to help ensure the University is meeting its record-keeping responsibilities.

The records management program for the UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, and all other hospital sites affiliated with the University, is under the direction the UWMC Patient Data Services Department. All questions regarding records retention scheduling and records storage for hospital units should be directed to UWMC Records Storage, 206-598-2242.

2.  Definitions

Official Copy: The "official copy" designation identifies the office or department with the primary responsibility for that record at the University.

Other Copy: The "other copy" designation refers to additional copies of the record which may be held in University offices and departments other than the official copy holder.

Record: University records include information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, and including such copies thereof, that have been created or received by the University of Washington in connection with the transaction of public business. These records may include: correspondence, reports, studies, contracts, completed forms, bound record books, data, maps, drawings, photographs, email, audio and visual recordings, web pages, blogs, wikis, or other documents whether on paper, computer (magnetic tape, disk, or hard drive), film, or other media.

Records Retention Schedule: A legal document approved by the State Records Committee that specifies required retention periods for a record series and provides ongoing disposition authority for the records series after its approved retention period has been satisfied.

Records Series: A class of records with a specific or common function or purpose under State government as identified and defined on an approved records retention schedule.

Retention Period: The required amount of time, approved by the State Records Committee, that a state government agency is required to retain records within a record series.

University Archives: A repository within the University Libraries that collects the historical records of the University for permanent preservation and research.

Retention periods which end with "Transfer to the University Archives" or "Transfer to University Archives for Review" refer to those items which may have historical value and should be preserved permanently. Rather than destroying those records at the end of their retention period, they should be transferred to the University Archives.

University Records Center: The University Records Center (URC) is one of the free services offered by Records Management Services. The major objective of the URC is to move inactive records out of high cost office space and filing equipment into the low cost, service-oriented environment of a central storage facility. The URC employs procedures which ensure physical and intellectual control of the records.

Vital Records: A vital record is recorded information, regardless of format (i.e., paper, photo, database, magnetic tape), that must be protected in the event of an emergency or disaster because of severe consequences to the office and the University as a whole if the record is lost or destroyed.

3.  UW Compliance Responsibility

  • It is the general policy of the University to:

  • Create only the records it needs.

  • Retain records according to established records retention schedules.

  • Maintain active and inactive records in appropriate storage equipment and locations.

  • Preserve records of historical significance.

  • Identify and protect vital records.

  • Discard records appropriately when no longer required.

All University administrative and academic units are required to have in place a plan that includes procedures for operational continuity to ensure the University is able to provide critical services. These plans should include, but are not limited to:

  A. Retention Requirements

Records Retention Schedules clearly state how long records created and received by the University of Washington, in both electronic and paper format, must legally be retained.

Records Management Services creates two categories of Records Retention Schedules for the University of Washington:

  • Departmental Retention Schedules are created, when necessary, for individual offices and departments. They include only those records which are unique to that office.

  • The UW General Records Retention Schedule includes records which are common to most University offices and departments. It is the primary source of retention requirements for the records created and received by the University of Washington. The UW General Records Retention Schedule provides the legal authority for the destruction of records.
  B. Records Destruction Holds

All records pertaining to ongoing or pending audits, lawsuits (or even reasonably anticipated lawsuits), or public disclosure proceedings must not be destroyed, damaged, or altered until the issue is resolved and the office or department is specifically advised that such records may be destroyed.

  C. State Records Committee

University records are public records and may not be destroyed, transferred to the University Records Center, or transferred to the University Archives without an official retention period approved by the State Records Committee.

4.  Responsibility

Each individual University office has primary legal responsibility for the proper care and management of its records. Directors and managers are responsible for ensuring compliance with legal requirements and for maintenance of the University's records in their organizations; however, day-to-day responsibility may be delegated to designated records authorities and coordinators. The same person may fill both positions.

The records authority has final approval for both the disposition of records and for the approval of departmental retention schedules. The records coordinator administers all day-to-day transactions associated with the office's records-related functions. This can include files organization and maintenance, implementation of retention schedules, inactive records storage, and records destruction. The records coordinator also acts as liaison with University Records Management Services.

5.  Services

The following free services are provided to University offices:

6.  Additional Information

Detailed procedures for Records Management Services are found on their website.

July 12, 2007