Know Which Records You're Responsible For

Step 2: Know Which Records You’re Responsible For & Which Are Copies

Match Your Records Inventory with the WatClass Retention Schedules

Your information inventory in “Step 1” uses the WatClass retention schedules to identify records categories. In this step, you use the retention schedules to determine which of your records are official University records – the version the University needs to meet legal, regulatory, and corporate memory requirements – and which are transitory copies, to be destroyed when you no longer need them.

Since WatClass is still incomplete, consult the University Records Manager when you’re unsure if yours are the University’s official records.

Are You the “Responsible Unit” for Records?

The “Responsible Unit” section of each records retention schedule identifies the units responsible for the University’s official records in that class. For example:

  • The Finance Department is responsible (with a few exceptions) for the University’s accounts payable records, including the invoices that you  forward to Finance for payment.
  • Units typically keep copies of those invoices, to track payments and to facilitate budgeting, but those copies are transitory and not official records. It’s Finance’s responsibility to keep these records to document the University`s financial transactions.

In some cases, the “Responsible Unit” is every unit which has records of a certain class. For example:

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

If you aren’t the responsible unit, your copies are transitory records which should be disposed of when you no longer need them. The maximum period that you should keep transitory records is the retention period set for the official record, but transitory copies can typically be disposed of after a much shorter length of time.

Your information inventory will list both the official records and the transitory records that your unit is keeping.

Document the Retention Periods for Your Records in the Information Inventory

When 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.

When there are no legal requirements that the University must meet, the retention rule may be worded as a “retention band,” of the form: “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 for its work, between the minimum & maximum, document your chosen retention period in your inventory, and then follow that retention period consistently.

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

You can calculate how long you’ll need records by considering how you’re currently using those records in daily work. Setting a 5-year retention period, for example, means that your unit currently uses 4 or 5-year-old records of that type at least a few times every month. If, instead, you’re using records for only 1 or 2 years, 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 retention countdown leading 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 called 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

You should plan to dispose of records once or twice a year – for example, at the end of the academic year (or fiscal year, for financial records) in which the retention period expires. If you have a high volume of records in some classes it might be necessary to plan for more frequent disposal, perhaps at the end of every academic term.

Next Step (3): Organize & Safeguard Your Records