Know Which Records You're Responsible For

Step 2: Know Which Records You’re Responsible For & Which Are Copies: Match Your Inventory With The University Records Retention Schedules

Match Your Records with the WatClass Retention Schedules

The information inventory process in “Step 1” uses the WatClass retention schedules as one tool for identifying your categories of records. In this step, you should complete the process of matching your records with the retention schedules, and then distinguish between the official University records your office is responsible for – the version the University keeps to meet legal, regulatory, and corporate memory requirements – and the records which are transitory copies.

Since the retention schedules are still a work-in-progress, with incomplete sections, you should consult with the University Records Manager when you’re unsure if yours are the University’s official records or copies.

Are You the “Responsible Unit” for Records?

Each retention schedule has a section which identifies the “responsible unit(s)” for the records class: the offices responsible for the University’s official record. For example:

  • The Finance Department is responsible (with a few exceptions) for the University’s accounts payable records, which include the invoices from suppliers that offices forward to Finance for payment.
  • The offices forwarding those invoices will typically keep a copy, to keep track of their payments to suppliers and to facilitate budgeting, but they are not responsible for keeping these records to document the University`s financial transactions: this is the responsibility of Finance.

In some cases, every unit which has records of a certain class is responsible for the University’s official record.

For example:

If You Aren’t the Responsible Unit, Your Records are Transitory

If you aren’t the responsible unit for records, your copies are transitory records which you should dispose of as soon as they are no longer needed by your office. The maximum period of time that you should keep these records is the retention period used for the official record, but typically these copies can be disposed of after a much shorter period of time.

Your information inventory will include both the official records for which you are the responsible unit, and also the copies which you are keeping as information supporting current work tasks.

Document the Retention Periods for Your Records in the Information Inventory

In cases where there is a legal requirement to keep records, the retention schedule will tell you exactly how many years you should retain them: for example, 5 years for employee vacation records. This is the retention period which you should list in your information inventory.

For records where there are no legal retention requirements that the University must meet, the retention rule may be worded as a “retention band,” like so: “keep for a minimum of X years and no longer than Y years.” In these cases, you should decide how long your unit needs the records within that time period, document that retention period in your inventory and then follow that retention period consistently.

For your transitory records, determine the period of time that you need the copies to support your current work, up to the retention period defined for the official record. Document that retention period in your inventory and then follow that retention period consistently.

A good approach to deciding how long you need records – both transitory records and official records with a retention band – is to think of how those records are currently being used in daily work. Setting a 5-year retention period, for example, means that your office currently needs and uses 4 or 5-year old records of that type at least a few times every month. If you’re actually using records for only 1 or 2 years old, and never referring to older records, then a retention period of 2-3 years is more appropriate.

“Trigger Events” for Starting the Records Retention Countdown

The countdown to final disposal of records begins when records are no longer needed for current University administration, typically when the matter or activity in which they were created and used is completed or “closed.” That point of completion or closure is often referred to as a trigger event or trigger date: for example:

  • The trigger event for counting the retention of student records is the student’s graduation date, or, for inactive/withdrawn students, their last date of registration.
  • The trigger event for project planning records is the completion or cancellation of the project.

If you’re unsure of the trigger event for a group of records, contact the University Records Manager for assistance.

Postpone Records Disposal until the End of the Year

Rather than disposing of records in a piecemeal manner throughout the year, based on the exact passage of time since the records’ trigger event, you should instead plan for disposal once or twice a year – for example, at the end of the academic year in which the retention expires or the end of the University’s fiscal year, for financial records. If you’re dealing with a high volume of records in some records classes, it might be necessary to plan for more frequent disposal, perhaps at the end of every academic term.