Disposing of records
All University offices are responsible for disposing of inactive records in accordance with University policy as stated in Presidential Regulations and Terms of Reference. Records disposition is the final phase in the life cycle of records and this phase normally entails either destruction or transfer to the University Archives. Disposition of records should occur routinely. This ensures that costly physical space is freed for new paper records and that new electronic records do not become “lost” on local drives and networks. Routine application of disposition will also prevent staff from spending needless time maintaining records that should have already been either destroyed or forwarded to the University Archives.
University offices should also note that in the case of a legal action or an access request under FIPPA, the University is obligated to produce any relevant documentation that it holds – regardless of whether it should have already been destroyed in accordance with a retention policy. Once such action commences, it is essential that all disposition activities be stopped immediately.
Evaluation by the Office
The first step in evaluating University offices’ records is to determine if the records are a duplicate of other records within the same office. For example, if an office has five copies of a report generated by the office, then only one copy needs to be retained. This analysis of records for inter-office duplication is particularly important when evaluating electronic records. Specifically, electronic records generated on staff desktops using email, word-processing, and spreadsheet computer applications do not need to be maintained if a paper copy of the document already exists. It is important to understand that the principles of paper records management apply equally to electronic records management.
Once inter-office duplicate records have been identified and destroyed, the next step in disposing of inactive University records is to determine if the records, or portions of the records, are covered by a retention and disposition schedule.
To determine if some of your operational records have been scheduled, please consult the retention and disposition schedules. Administrative records are scheduled via the University File Plan. Note that procedures for transferring and disposing of records only apply to official University records and not duplicates or convenience copies. This distinction is described in detail in the Introduction to the University File Plan.
Records that have been scheduled should be disposed of in accordance with the appropriate retention and disposition schedule.
Records that can be destroyed should be destroyed in a confidential manner. Please see destroying records for more details.
Paper records that can be forwarded to the University Archives should be transferred in accordance with University procedures. Please see Transferring Records to the Archives. Offices that have electronic or imaged records (such as microfilm) that are scheduled for transfer to the University Archives should contact UTARMS directly.
Records that must be retained by University offices for a longer period of time remain the responsibility of University offices. If on-site storage space is not available, offices may wish to consider off-site storage. In some circumstances, an imaging or scanning solution may be appropriate.
Inactive unscheduled records must be reviewed by the University Archivist before being destroyed or transferred to the University Archives. The following procedures apply to unscheduled paper records. Unscheduled records on other media, such as electronic records or microforms, should be discussed directly with UTARMS.
Listing of Files
Offices must provide a list of records to UTARMS before any records are destroyed or transferred to the University Archives. UTARMS will review the list and decide, in consultation with the office, which records should be destroyed, retained for a longer period by the office or transferred to the Archives.
It is often easiest for University offices to begin this process by transferring the files into boxes and then compiling a list. To download the file list template please see forms. The procedures are as follows:
- The University office places the records in 1 cu. ft. boxes. These can be obtained from the Purchasing Department or from an office supplies store.
- The office produces a list of the contents of each box. This list must include accurate file titles, and outside date ranges of the records in each file. Our sample file list provides as example of a content list.
- The office then emails an attached copy of the list to UTARMS’ Records Archivist. In the email message, be sure to include your name, telephone number, department/office, and format in which the attachment is saved.
Appraisal of the Records by UTARMS
After the list is received by UTARMS, the Records Analyst reviews the list to verify that existing retention schedules do not apply. The Records Analyst then determines, in consultation with the University office, which files belong to continuing or discontinued series.
The list is then transferred to UTARMS’ Records Archivist who prepares a Statement of Appraisal in consultation with the transferring office. The Statement of Appraisal specifies which records can be destroyed, which need to be retained for a longer period of time by the office and which can be transferred to the University Archives for permanent retention.
The Statement of Appraisal is then sent to the University office for approval by a senior administrator. The University office then returns the signed Statement of Appraisal to UTARMS and retains a copy for future reference.
At this stage the Records Analyst and the University office may decide to formalize the retention and disposition decisions made in the Statement of Appraisal in a Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. This formalization will only be undertaken when the files are part of a continuing series. Once a Retention and Disposition Schedule is in place, the University office will not need to repeat the process of listing their files and consulting with UTARMS before destroying or transferring these records.
Once UTARMS receives the signed Statement of Appraisal, the University office may prepare to transfer to the University Archives those records selected for permanent retention. This should be done in accordance with the procedures detailed in Transferring Hard Copy Records to the University Archives.
When the Statement of Appraisal is signed, records that have been earmarked for destruction should be destroyed in a confidential manner. See destroying records for more details.
The University office may need to consider storage of those records earmarked for longer retention with the office. If on-site storage space is not available, the office may wish to consider off-site storage. In some circumstances, an imaging or scanning solution may be appropriate.