University Records Policy


Academic and administrative units

Policy Statement

Records Management provides systematic, cost-effective control of the University’s records from creation to final disposition in order to:

  • comply with federal and state law
  • protect vital records
  • minimize the cost of record retention
  • ensure the effective use of space
  • guarantee the disposition of outdated records
  • preserve the University’s history


Record: A record is defined as any information, regardless of physical format, which has legal, fiscal, administrative or enduring value, including but not limited to paper, microforms, photographs, drawings, maps, motion picture film, and electronic records maintained in magnetic or optical format such as databases, e-mail, voicemail, CDs and DVDs, videotapes and audio tapes, computer tapes and discs, and word processing documents.

Inactive Records: Inactive records are those no longer required to carry out the administrative or operational functions for which they were created, but must be kept for administrative, fiscal, legal, or historical purposes in accordance with approved records retention schedules.

Vital Records: Vital records are those necessary to re-establish or continue the University in the event of a disaster; to recreate the University’s legal and financial position; or to preserve the rights of the University, its trustees, faculty, staff, and students.

Archival Records: Archival records are those determined to be of enduring value and therefore preserved and made available for historical research in the University Archives.

Records created or received during the normal course of University business are the property of Syracuse University, and all employees are responsible for ensuring that records are managed in accordance with University policies and in compliance with applicable federal and state laws. The same safeguards and controls over information stored electronically apply as for information created and maintained in paper form. Departments will retain records according to retention schedules developed in conjunction with Records Management staff and approved by legal counsel.

Inactive University records may be stored in the University Records Center which offers departments a centralized low-cost storage facility where inactive records may be stored, retrieved and destroyed once the legal retention period has passed. Records in the University Records Center remain under the control of the depositing department, and may be retrieved by that department as needed. Records in the University Records Center are not available for research except by staff of the depositing department or with the written permission of the depositing department. If there is adequate space, inactive records may be stored in departmental offices. Closets, basements, stairwells, attics, etc. are not considered acceptable storage places for University records and are not permitted.

Once records reach their scheduled legal disposition date, they must be removed from the University Records Center and either destroyed or deposited in the University Archives for permanent retention. Retaining records longer than the retention schedule authorizes, or disposing of records prematurely, can potentially cause legal and fiscal liabilities and is strictly forbidden.

The department, college, school or academic unit will:

  1. Manage records, whether maintained in the office area or stored in the University Records Center, in accordance with University requirements, in compliance with applicable federal and state laws, and in accordance with retention schedules developed in conjunction with Records Management staff and approved by legal counsel.
  2. Designate a records coordinator to be the primary liaison to Records Management. Records coordinators:
    • inventory office files and analyze office record-keeping systems, with assistance from Records Management staff
    • develop and maintain retention schedules, which list the legal period of time records must be retained, in conjunction with Records Management staff
    • coordinate records deposited in the University Records Center
    • act as central control point for records retrieved from the University Records Center
    • facilitate disposition of records at the end of their legal retention period
    • coordinate access to department records by non-department staff
    • review department retention schedules annually for required updates and changes
  3. Ensure that information of a sensitive or confidential nature is protected from unauthorized disclosure until final disposition and that such records are destroyed by a means that prohibits reconstruction of the information or, in the case of electronic records, properly deleted or purged.
  4. Prior to disposition, verify there is no audit, subpoena, current or anticipated investigation, or pending legal action or proceeding that would prohibit the destruction of records, even if the scheduled retention period has expired.
  5. Assist in identifying and preserving records of vital or enduring/archival value to the University.

The Records Management Department will:

  1. Provide training and ongoing assistance for staff assigned with records management responsibility.
  2. Assist with inventorying office/department files and analyzing office record-keeping systems.
  3. Develop records retention schedules in conjunction with department staff and monitor the maintenance of and compliance with those schedules.
  4. Manage and operate the University Records Center, retrieving records upon request of depositing department.
  5. Arrange for destruction of records stored in the University Records Center according to approved retention schedules and only with the consent of the dean, director or head of the depositing department.
  6. Assist in the preparation for and protection of University records in the event of a disaster.

Policy Administration

Links to Procedures and Related Information

Date: June 2003
Amended: May 2007