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New Employees

As a state agency, the University of Washington is subject to laws regarding public records and transparency. Subsequently, the university, each of its offices, and each and every employee has the legal responsibility to demonstrate the proper care and management of its records. That means:

  1. Keeping the record for the appropriate amount of time (the retention period)
  2. Keeping it in such a way that it is not damaged or destroyed
  3. Keeping it in such a way that it can be found and viewed
  4. Being able to produce copies in the event of litigation, audit, or public records request
  5. Disposing of the records promptly, in an appropriate manner, once the retention period has expired

The state defines a record in RCW 40.14.010. In short, a record is any recorded information, created or received, regardless of:

  • physical format or characteristics,
  • the device (computer) on which it is created or stored, or
  • the owner of the device.

→ For more information, see What is a record?

It is the content, not the medium, which determines the retention obligation of a record. Always apply the retention schedule regardless of format.

Consult the University General Records Retention Schedule and check to see if your department has a supplemental Departmental Records Retention Schedule.

For more information, see University of Washington Retention Schedules.

By the way, these retention periods also apply to email, word documents, and other electronic records. For more information, see our resource on Email Management.

No, there are no exceptions HOWEVER there are several types of records that can be disposed of as soon as they’ve outlived their usefulness. Some common examples include preliminary drafts, duplicates, scheduling emails, automatically-generated notifications, and routine informational exchanges. These types of records often times constitute a large portion of the records an office or individual receives, but can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from more valuable records.

If you have questions, or would like further clarification, please contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573. For a list of records that can be destroyed/deleted as soon as they have served their reference purpose, see Materials That May Be Disposed of Without a Specific Retention Period.

An office or department is always welcome to scan records so long as they keep the original paper documents. If you want to scan and destroy the original paper, your office must have a written Scanning Policy on file with our office. To check if you already have a scanning policy, talk to the Records Coordinator in your office or try our Departmental Search webpage – it tells you if you have a departmental retention schedule and/or a scanning policy. If you are still unsure, please contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573.

If you can’t find a record series on the General Schedule it is because

  1. the record is no longer being created;
  2. it needs to be added to the schedule;
  3. you might use a different name for this type of record.

Contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573 and we will help you find the appropriate record series and determine how long to keep it.

As there are a variety of regulations regarding the privacy of records, so too are there a number of offices at the university responsible for policies which oversee confidentiality. Regardless, while assuring the privacy requirements of our records are met, we must still observe the proper retention period outlined in our state-approved retention schedules. The records must remain able to be located and viewed by individuals with appropriate security clearance until such time as they can be properly disposed of.

For more information about implementing proper security for your files, please contact the Human Subjects Division for Grant/Contract records or the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer.

For state, gift, and endowment budget records see the Financial Records section of the general schedule. For grant and contract budgets see the Research and Grant/Contract Records section. Records entered into MyFinancial.desktop, however, are managed centrally. Any paper or electronic copies of records you have are duplicates and be disposed of. See Electronic Records that do not need to be printed or saved.

Our office does offer training on a variety of records management topics. Our most recent training materials can be viewed on our Records Management Training & Guides webpage. Subscribe to our listserv to be notified when upcoming free trainings are offered.

If you do not see the training you are interested in, please contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573. We also provide customized on-site events and 1-on-1 consultations for individual offices.

Check out the rest of our website including our New Employee Resources page. And feel free to ask us questions over email (urc@uw.edu) or by phone (543-0573).

General Questions

Retention periods are based on state, federal, and private sponsor requirements. These requirements are identified by UW Records Management Services and approved by the State Records Committee.

Records Retention periods are found on Records Retention Schedules. UW Records Management Services creates two types of retention schedules for the UW. Most offices, departments and programs will find all their records listed on the University General Records Retention Schedule. The General Schedule lists records commonly received and created by most offices at the UW. Offices with a very unique function like the UW Police Department will find their unique records listed on a customized Departmental Records Retention Schedule.

By the way, these retention periods also apply to email, word documents, and other electronic records. For more information, see our resource on Email Management.

If you can’t find a record on the General Schedule it is because the record is no longer being created, it needs to be added to the retention schedule, or you might be calling the record something other than the retention schedule title. Contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573 and we will help you find the record and determine how long to keep it.

Yes, we have responsibility for keeping records for their full retention period regardless of whether they are still being created or used. You are always welcome to send the records to the University Records Center for inactive storage. At the end of the retention period, with your approval, we will take responsibility for destroying them.

Although no longer being created, Form 220s are still a very important record that needs to be maintained by the University. Please send any Form 220 you find to Human Resources, Box 354963.

Yes, if you are being audited or have received notice of an audit, if there is litigation regarding the records (or even pending litigation), or if there is a public records request—the responsive records should not be destroyed until the matter is resolved and their retention period has ended. We consider that a “Destruction Hold” has been placed on the relevant records.

Not exactly. The retention clock keeps ticking through the “Destruction Hold”. If a retention period ends while the records are still on hold, do not destroy the records. The records should not be destroyed until both the “Destruction Hold” has been lifted and the retention period has ended.

Yes, because we try to squeeze as many boxes as possible into the Records Center, our shelves are configured for only one box size. Commonly known as "banker's boxes", you can order these boxes from Office Depot. The box size is 10x12x15. Item Number 199570; Item Number 323829; and Item Number 198802 are all acceptable.

Our office has a mailman list called Recmgmtinfo that you may subscribe to. All announcements and news are sent out through this list. Please visit this page to subscribe.

Records will either be designated “Transfer to Archives for Review” or “Archival” on a Records Retention Schedule. Records that fall into these categories will be reviewed by the University Archivist who will determine whether to bring them into the Archival collection of the UW. If the Archivist does not decide to accept specific records, regardless of their designation, the records can be either shredded or recycled at the end of their retention period.

Yes, any policies or procedures with which we expect our employees to comply are considered historical or “Archival” records. These records are considered permanent. A copy should be captured and transferred to the University Archives before the policy or procedure is revised. See the series on Policies and Procedures in the General Office Administration Records section of the University General Records Retention Schedule.

As there are a variety of regulations regarding the privacy of records, so too are there a number of offices at the university responsible for policies which oversee confidentiality. Regardless, while assuring the privacy requirements of our records are met, we must still observe the proper retention period outlined in our state-approved retention schedules. The records must remain able to be located and viewed by individuals with appropriate security clearance until such time as they can be properly disposed of.

For more information about implementing proper security for your files, please contact the Human Subjects Division for Grant/Contract records or the Office of the Chief Information Security Officer.

Electronic Records

Yes. Records retention schedules cover all records created or received by University employees, whether in paper or electronic format. Both the state and the federal government define a record as information “regardless of physical form or characteristics”, so by definition, an email, database, or word document is also a record. And since every record has a specific amount of time it must be retained before it can be destroyed, this retention requirement applies to electronic records as well. At the end of the retention period, electronic records should be deleted or transferred to the University Archives (if listed as “Archival” or “Potentially Archival” on a UW Records Retention Schedule).

Yes, it's fine to move from paper to electronic records. However, be aware that electronic records are governed by the same accessibility and retention requirements as paper records. When moving to electronic forms or designing a database you need to consider the retention period of the record and ensure it is accessible and readable for the full retention period. You must also ensure that it can be deleted or wiped at the end of the retention period. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573 to discuss this further.

Backups are considered to be duplicates. Duplicates can be destroyed once they have served their reference purpose. We highly recommend using backups only to restore data in cases of a disk failure, accidental deletion, or for disaster recovery purposes. We recommend that full backups should not be kept for more than 6 months and that partial backups not be kept for more than 3 months.

It depends upon the type of changes that are being made to the web page.

If you are only modifying the layout or display, or making other revisions that don't substantially change the content, then you do not have to keep a copy of old web pages.

If the changes to the web page include revising, adding or removing substantive information like policies or procedures, requirements, deadlines, program or course descriptions, then the site must be retained permanently as a historical or “Archival” record. Other sites that contain research data should be kept for 6 years after the end of the research study under which the data was created.

There are 3 simple ways to retain an old web page/site:

  1. Before making the changes, print a copy of the page/site and file it chronologically with previous changes/updates.
  2. If your website is capable of it, use version control. Number each revision of your web page. As you update a webpage, save the new page under a new version number which will enable you to pull up previous versions when needed.
  3. If your page is the official location of policy, procedure, or program descriptions you can contact John Bolcer, University Archivist for information on how to transfer these web sites to the University Archives for permanent preservation.

Since the state defines a record as information regardless of physical form or characteristics, IM, tweets, texts and any other forms of written communication fall under retention requirements and are subject to public records requests. Because it is so difficult to capture these communications we strongly advise not using them for approvals or to provide customized or unique advice to a student or employee. Those messages are best relayed through email.

Like email, the content of the message determines the retention. Generally, most if not all of these messages can be considered transitory and will fall under the listing for email you can delete in the UW Email Best Practices.

If approvals or unique advice is communicated to a student or employee via IM, text, or a tweet, we advise that the message be forwarded to an official UW email account and retained based on its retention on a UW Records Retention Schedule. (6 years after graduation or last contact for messages regarding a student; 3 years after termination of employment for messages regarding an employee).

Like all other electronic records, the retention for Facebook and all other social media is determined by the content of the post. If social media is used as a marketing tool and any information posted can be found on an official web site or imbedded in written policy and procedure, then the content of the social media site can be considered a duplicate record. Duplicates can be destroyed as soon as they have served their reference purpose. In addition, we suggest taking down content that is not up-to-date.

If your Facebook account or other social media sites are the official location of policy, procedure, or program descriptions that are not posted in another location, you can contact John Bolcer, University Archivist for information on how to transfer these sites to the University Archives for permanent preservation.

Yes, an eSignature service is now being offered by UW-IT as part of the Enterprise Document Management business service. eSignature capabilities are provided through an enterprise UW license for an online software called DocuSign. It provides the following business functions both electronically and securely: signatures, data collection, approvals, notification and acknowledgement.

eSignatures is expected to be available in Spring Quarter 2017. For more information, see the IT-Connect page on eSignatures.

Yes.  Using a third party vendor to store a database in the cloud or using third party services, such as Moodle, as part of interaction with students does not affect how these records are defined.  Even if the records are not in our custody, these records are created on behalf of the University.  Therefore, they are public records subject to requests and legal action.

It is your responsibility to ensure vendors meet the retention requirements as well as delete the records after the retention has been met.  Further, the University must be able to access the records for the entire retention period, especially if they need to be turned over to the public records office, auditor or an attorney.

Metadata is considered to be part of the record and must be managed the same as the content.

For those records which have not passed their retention, you must retrieve these records and manage them until the retention has been met.  While migrating these records to your new vendor’s platform is not absolutely required, the records must be retained in a form that remains accessible and readable.  We recommend wording to this effect be included in your contract to help eliminate any misunderstandings on this point.

If the messages are sent, received and archived in connection with the transaction of University business they are considered to be a public record; therefore, they should be retained using an approved UW Records Retention Schedule. 

Retention is based on the purpose of the listserv and the content of the emails.  Most listserv messages can be considered transitory and can be deleted once their reference purpose is served.  Messages containing final recommendations or approvals for actions taken must be retained for 6 years.  For more information on Retention Periods see http://f2.washington.edu/fm/recmgt/gs

If you are an administrator of the listserv, an email to UW-IT begins the process.  Simply send an email to help@uw.edu, identify your listserv and direct them to delete the messages, giving them date parameters (any messages older than 6 years, for example).  UW-IT will then delete the messages on your behalf. 

Note: prior to notifying UW-IT, review the account for any messages which may be currently needed for an audit, litigation or public records request.  These must be retained until the action has been resolved.

Email

Yes. Like any other kind of record, retention periods do have to be applied to emails. The retention is based on the content of each individual email since email itself is not a record; it is a way of transmitting information. Most emails have a very transitory value and therefore can be deleted as soon as they have fulfilled their reference purpose. These emails include preliminary drafts, general announcements, and routine requests for information.

For a full list of content that does not have to be retained see: Materials That May Be Disposed of Without a Specific Retention Period.

However, all other email must be retained for some period of time. The following are examples of categories of email which have specific retention periods:

  • Policy and Procedure Directives
  • Agendas and minutes of meetings
  • Messages related to legal or audit issues
  • Messages that document departmental/office actions, decisions, operations and responsibilities
  • Final reports or recommendations
  • Approvals for purchasing or hiring new employees

To determine the retention periods of these records, please refer to the UW General Records Retention Schedules and your Departmental Retention Schedule.

For more information, please see our resource on Email Management.

Scanning

An office or department is always welcome to scan records as long as they keep the original paper documents. If you want to scan and destroy the original paper, you must have a written Scanning Policy on file with our office, Records Management Services. Contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573 or go directly to the UW Scanning Requirements for more information.

The UW Scanning Requirements which necessitate a Scanning Policy are based on Imaging Systems, Standards for Accuracy and Durability – Chapter 434‐663 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). These requirements must be met to justify the use of scanned images as replacements for the original paper records.

All the information that goes in a scanning policy is included in the UW Scanning Requirements. Much of the content can be cut and pasted directly from the Scanning Requirements. Scanning policies should include:

  • Instructions for the use of scanning hardware, including scanning settings
  • Standards and instructions for indexing, naming and labeling files
  • Instructions for Quality Control inspections
  • How scanned records are enhanced or manipulated to create a more readable image
  • Include, in detail, the steps that will be taken to correct a scanned record that is not clear and is difficult to read (not complete, blurry, or otherwise illegible)
  • The process used to identify images that have past their retention period
  • The process through which these images will be deleted/purged
  • How the scanned records will be backed-up

You must either find room in your office to store the paper records for their full retention period or you are welcome to send the paper records you scanned to the University Records Center for storage. Regardless of where the paper records are stored they must be safe and accessible for their full retention period and should be destroyed when that retention period ends.

If you already have a scanning policy on file with UW Records Management Services, we will not accept the scanned paper records for storage. They are considered duplicates and should be destroyed.

To destroy the paper records that you scan and attach to ARIBA you must have a Scanning Policy. If you don’t have a scanning policy, you are required to keep the paper copies of the receipts and documentation.

Yes, because ARIBA is considered the “system of record”, an ARIBA scanning policy has fewer sections than a policy which includes records not attached to ARIBA. An ARIBA scanning policy only includes the following information:

  • Instructions for the use of scanning hardware, including scanning settings
  • Instructions for Quality Control inspections
  • How scanned records are enhanced or manipulated to create a more readable image
  • The steps that will be taken to correct a scanned record that is not clear and is difficult to read (not complete, blurry, or otherwise illegible)

Grant and Contract Records

For most grant-related financial records, the FSR submission is the trigger date used to signify the start of the record retention period. The trigger represents an event, in order of precedence:

  1. FSR Submission: The date the Financial Status Report (FSR) was submitted to the sponsor. FSR Submission types are Final FSR or Quarterly or Annual FSRs for awards renewed quarterly or annually.
  2. Final Invoice Date: The date the Final Invoice was submitted to the sponsor, where no FSR is required.
  3. Budget Closeout: The date the final budget reconciliation was completed, where the sponsor does not require a FSR or Final Invoice.  Includes invoicable budgets.

Effective May 9, 2014, you can locate the FSR date for a given budget using GrantTracker. If the “Trigger” field is not populated, the date should be available in the notes section of Grant Tracker. Click here to view the step by step guide on locating the trigger date in GrantTracker.

Please note that for sub-budgets, departments should look to the parent budget for the trigger date which is used to signify the start of the retention period.

It is very important to note that for grants renewed on an ongoing basis, the trigger date is based on the annual or quarterly submission, not the final termination of the grant.

Financial records for SNAP grants follow the same retention requirements as any other awards. We use the trigger date of submission of the Financial Status Report (FSR) to begin the retention count-down. The retention period is 6 years after submission of the FSR.

For most other types of awards an FSR is submitted annually or sometimes quarterly through the life of the grant. As a result a department will rarely have accumulated more than 1 year of financial records before the retention period begins.

For a SNAP grant only one FSR is submitted. This submission takes place at the end of the renewal period. We still follow the 6 year retention period for financial records but because we only submit one FSR, a department will have accumulated several years of financial records before that retention period begins.

The University retention requirements are established to ensure the availability of financial records that may be required for audit purposes. These retention periods either meet or exceed federal and state requirements. State and federal auditors have a 6 year window of opportunity to audit financial records that begins either when the FSR is submitted, the date the Final Invoice was submitted to the sponsor where no additional FSR is required, or the date the final budget reconciliation was completed where the sponsor does not require a FSR or Final Invoice. Unless you have a SNAP grant, these submissions or final budget reconciliations take place annually or sometimes quarterly for your grant. Only departments with SNAP grants must retain their financial records for the full term of the award.

Original receipts should be forwarded to the UW except in the following circumstances:

  • Locally based staff who are reimbursed from an established UW office in country (e.g. UW Kenya, I-TECH local offices), with the agreement of UW Banking Operations.
  • Local laws require original receipts to be retained in country

In the above cases scanned copies of receipts can be forwarded to the UW.

For studies that are considered clinical studies, use either the "Research Data – Non-Biomedical Treatment or Intervention" or "Research Data – Biomedical Treatment or Intervention" series in the Research and Grant/Contract Records section of the UW General Records Retention Schedule. Choose the series description that best fits your study.

Since a renewal is an authorization for follow‐up support to a project, for administrative records and research data, the retention period begins after the final renewal ends.

Renewals have no impact on financial records.

You can send boxes for storage at any time. On receipt of the boxes we would use the current anticipated study end date as the first trigger. This is the date the current renewal is projected to end. As your stored boxes near the end of their retention period, you will receive an automatic notification email from our database asking for the most current award renewal date. Each time we receive a new projected end date we will revise the study end trigger date in our database.

Please note that we will not start the count-down of the actual retention until there are no more changes to the trigger date. The retention clock will not start until the award is no longer renewed.

Yes it is. However, please review Grants Information Memorandum 37 to ensure the principal investigator is aware of the compliance issues regarding the transfer of research data.

MyFD Financial Reports

No. We have worked very hard with the Financial Desktop group to ensure that the Financial Desktop would be responsible for meeting the retention period of the records it holds.

If you do print something out, you can consider it a duplicate and destroy it once it has served its reference purpose.

Please note that for those sponsored budgets that do not submit financial status reports at least annually, you will need to continue to keep your own copies of ISDs, CTIs, and invoices for the full retention period. See Research and Grant/Contract Records.

Yes. If you have a record that is not on the Financial Desktop, like a ProCard receipt, you are responsible for keeping it for the full retention period.

Copies of invoices paid with an online PAS Purchase Order do not need to be retained by departments. PAS invoice information and images dating back to 1/1/2008 are available through Procurement Desktop Reports and will remain visible and accessible for their full retention period. Any invoices or reports printed from the Procurement Desktop Reports are considered duplicates and can be destroyed as soon as they have served their reference purpose. See Materials That May Be Disposed of Without a Specific Retention Period.

However, invoices paid by a manual PAS Purchase Order, check request, wire transfer, or other method are not accessible through the Procurement Desktop Reports. Departments should continue to retain copies of these documents for the full retention period.

There are many financial reports that do not have to be printed. They will be visible and accessible for their full retention period through MyFD, Procurement Desktop Reports, the Electronic Data Warehouse, or other central UW databases like ARIBA. Any reports that are printed are considered duplicates and can be destroyed as soon as they have served their reference purpose. For more information, see Electronic Records That Do Not Need to Be Printed or Saved.

Please note that for those sponsored budgets that do not submit financial status reports at least annually, you will need to continue to keep your own copies of ISDs, CTIs, and invoices for the full retention period. See Research and Grant/Contract Records.

No, paper BAR & BSR reports are no longer necessary for retention purposes, since financial reports meeting this need can be accessed online through the Financial Desktop. However, please note that for those sponsored budgets that do not submit financial status reports at least annually, while it is not necessary to keep paper BARs and BSRs, you will need to continue to keep paper copies of any transaction records for their full retention period. This is true not only for MyFinancial.desktop, but also for other source systems like ARIBA.

The Transaction Summary Report is the online equivalent of the printed BAR. It displays individual transactions that impacted a budget during a reporting period.

The Budget Summary Report is the online equivalent to the printed BSR. Includes budgeted amounts, encumbrances, transaction totals, and budget balances.

Departments are able to voluntarily opt out of receiving printed copies of the BAR & BSR reports. All requests for opting out must be made by the department administrator here.

In February 2011, MyFD added budget reconciliation to its suite of services. The Reconciliation Report enables users to monitor and perform real time reconciliation of transactions as they post to a budget (for which they have access). It provides a convenient means to electronically record fiscal oversight by using the Reconciliation Status. (Often referred to as budget ‘sign off’.)

Administrators and PIs will be able to electronically ‘sign-off’ on the Reconciliation Report in MyFD. This is an acceptable means for demonstrating oversight of fiscal transactions.

Decision Support Center has a number of financial reports designed to augment the reports available in MyFD. Currently there are 98 reports available through the Decision Support Center. For example, a new report is available to show the credit and debit budget numbers associated with a journal vouchers. These reports are accessible through the ‘More Systems’ drop down found within the MyFD application.

You may choose to print a report from the Decision Support Center but, like reports from MyFD, they are considered duplicates and can be destroyed at any time.

Click here for state budget and endowment records.

Click here for grant/contract budget records.

Click here for a list of financial records that do not need to be printed or saved

Student Records

The retention for e-mail is based on the content of each individual email. Emails that simply request or provide information are transitory and can be deleted as soon as a reply is given or received. E-mails that inform decision-making or could potentially be relied upon legally or financially are substantive and must be retained as per an approved retention schedule.

Examples of transitory emails:

  • Answer directional questions such as:
    • "When is the test?"
    • "What are your office hours?"
    • "How do I apply for this program?"
  • Provide generic information
  • Contain information or links from a source such as a website, database, or content management system

Examples of substantive emails:

  • Complaints against UW employees or fellow students
  • Requests for a waiver or appeal
  • Grade appeals
  • Advising recommendations
  • Address disciplinary and conduct issues

Yes. Because UW is a public agency, any and all records are subject to public records requests and audits - including student organization activities and purchases. The University has answered public records requests in the past that included financial and event records from student groups. Student organizations should use the General Records Retention Schedule to apply retention to their records.

Student organization leadership and their faculty advisor(s) are responsible for maintaining their records. 

The retention for course materials is one quarter (3 months) after the materials are no longer needed for agency business. The retention for student exams, papers, and assignments is one quarter (3 months) after the end of the quarter.

The University General Records Retention Schedule contains a section specifically for Student and Curriculum Records. Retention applies to all records, regardless of physical format or storage location. This includes e-mails, databases, and course content management systems such as Canvas/Catalyst.

If you are unable to find the student or curriculum record series you are looking for, please contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573.

Shredding

All General Records Retention Schedules include the appropriate method for disposition of a record once it has reached the end of its retention period. Disposition methods include shredding, recycling, deletion of electronic records or transfer of the records to the University Archives. The appropriate disposition method is listed right under the retention period.

Examples of confidential or proprietary records that should be shredded include:

  • student files;
  • personnel files;
  • intellectual property;
  • or any records that contain Social Security Numbers, Student ID numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, etc.

Please contact us at urc@uw.edu or 543-0573 if you have questions about the confidentiality of specific records.

If records are sent to the University Records Center for inactive storage, at the end of their retention period we will pay for shredding. If records are stored in an office for the full retention period, the office can either chose to shred the records themselves or pay for a vendor to do the shredding for them.

If non-paper records like tapes and disks contain confidential information, then they must also be destroyed in a way that maintains their confidentiality of their content. If these types of records are sent to the University Records Center for inactive storage, we will pay to have them destroyed in a way that preserves their confidentiality. If non-paper records are stored in an office for the full retention period, we recommend that a vendor take on the destruction. Most shredding vendors can also handle these formats, although their price structure may be different.

Current shredding services contract(s) available to the University can be found on the Procurement Services website using the UW Contracts search tool and using the search term "shredding".

It is important to create an audit trail for the records your office disposes of, regardless of whether they are shredded, recycled, deleted, or transferred to University Archives. To that end, we recommend each office maintain a disposition log documenting what records were destroyed and when. For more information, see Destroying Records.