AD35 - Attachment A - UNIVERSITY RECORDS FAQs

PURPOSE:  This FAQ provides answers to frequently asked questions related to the management of University records at Penn State University. Depending on the document type in question, an FAQ example may also direct users to the appropriate retention schedule for guidance (see the General Retention Schedule or the Financial Record Retention Schedule on GURU, as applicable).

Please refer to Penn State Policy AD35, University Archives and Records Management for full details. If you still have questions, contact the University Archives and/or Records Management Program.

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A. GENERAL Records

STEP ONE: Determine the record retention schedule for the types of paper files, documents, records, databases, and reports that you manage.
STEP TWO: Organize and purge the electronic files, documents, records, databases, and reports that you manage.
STEP THREE: Organize and purge your physical office areas following the retention schedules.
STEP FOUR:  Establish a pattern of using records retention schedules, make it a habit to organize and de-clutter, purge on a routine basis and maintain procedures to comply with AD35.

For additional advice, contact the Records Management program.

  1. Who is required to adhere to this policy? All University faculty, staff and students as well as all University-related businesses and vendors. Failure to comply with the policy will be considered a violation of an employee’s service agreement and subject to discipline by the employee’s administrative area budget executive.
  2. What is the retention schedule for …? Retention schedules for specific types of records can be located by reviewing the General Retention Schedule and the Financial Record Retention Schedule.
    1. What if I cannot find a retention schedule for a specific document? Contact the Records Management program and request assistance. Retention schedule additions, changes and subtractions are reviewed quarterly by the Records Management Advisory Committee.
    2. What does “review by Archives” mean on the retention schedule? The University Archives needs to review the record series to determine its status as a possible permanent record. Many times the copy held by your office is a duplicate of a permanent record and can be discarded as long as the original is held within the University Archives. “Review by” allows the University Archives an opportunity to confirm and verify.
    3. My document is just a copy, do I need to follow the retention schedule? The creator of the original is responsible for the full length of the retention schedules. All versions, copies, drafts, and formats of University records are transactional copies and may be destroyed earlier than the full retention period.
    4. Can I keep records for longer than the retention period? Records are only maintained beyond documented retention periods if they are designated as part of a litigation hold.
    5. Can I keep records for a shorter period than the documented retention period? If you are the originator of the record, no. If you are holding a transactional copy, yes.
  3. Who do I contact with questions about which items are “University Records?” The Records Management Advisory Committee reviews all questions related to compliance with AD35. Questions about specific record types or series can be addressed either to the Records Management Officer or the University Archivist.
  4. How often and how do I report disposal of records? AD35 requires an annual report of compliance with retention, disposition and destruction schedules. The reporting process is delineated within the policy under regular review, policy section 2.
  5. Who appoints a Records Management Liaison/Records Management Assistant for my Administrative area? The Budget Executive appoints a Records Management Liaison for each administrative area. Large administrative areas may choose to create a Records Management Liaison Committee with Records Management Assistants assigned to specific tasks. See definitions section of AD35. Recommended duties and skill sets for Records Management Liaisons and Records Management Assistants are viewable here.
  6. How many back-up copies of archived information should be retained? The Penn State University Archives serves as the official repository for permanent University records regardless of format. Records identified within the retention schedules as permanent should be transferred in a timely manner to the University Archives. All other copies of such records are transactional and as such can be destroyed based on the designated retention schedules.
  7. Are individuals responsible for converting their archived materials to newer formats as technology changes?  Official University records should be managed where possible, utilizing the most current technological services, either through use of centralized databases or local resources.
  8. How do campuses and/or administrative areas send their records to the University Archives? Or the Inactive Records Center? Contact the University Archives or the Inactive Records Center directly. Boxes for transfer will be provided and directions for shipment, courier service, and/or pick-up will be arranged.
  9. How can I organize my office records? Use the four-step protocol:

    STEP ONE: Determine the record retention schedule for the types of paper files, documents, records, databases, and reports that you manage.

    STEP TWO: Organize and purge the electronic files, documents, records, databases, and reports that you manage.

    STEP THREE: Organize and purge your physical office areas following the retention schedules.

    STEP FOUR:  Establish a pattern of using records retention schedules, make it a habit to organize and de-clutter, purge on a routine basis and maintain procedures to comply with AD35.

    For additional advice, contact the Records Management program.

  10. How can I participate in the University’s Blue/White Bag Program?  If you participate in the University’s Recycling Program, you are eligible to be scheduled for blue and white bag pick-ups. Blue bags contain confidential University records with Personally Identifiable Information (PII). White bags contain media such as cds, dvds, and microfilm. Contact the Office of Physical Plant, Recycling Office to schedule routine program participation or one-time clean-out assistance.
  11. Are training resources and tools available to help individuals understand the policy? Monthly in-person and online training sessions are offered by the Records Management program. On-demand individual, office training sessions can be scheduled on an as-needed basis. Contact the Records Management Program directly to schedule a training. Individual questions about the policy or retention schedules can be submitted via email for direct response.

B. HUMAN RESOURCE Records

NOTE: In some units using DocFinity, the Budget Executive's office manages the archive process. In order for this process to be successful, departments must ensure that all files with the status of ‘terminated’, ‘retired’, or ‘deceased’ have a termination date entered.

NOTE: In some units using DocFinity, the Budget Executive's office manages the archive process. In order for this process to be successful, departments must ensure that all files with the status of ‘terminated’, ‘retired’, or ‘deceased’ have a termination date entered.

  1. Since I send all full-time employee I-9s to Central OHR, do I need to keep copies? Records sent to or scanned into a centralized database/repository should NOT be retained locally.
  2. What is the retention schedule for SRDPs and the new YOU@PSU system? The retention schedule for Performance Evaluations in both formats is five (5) years.
  3. What is the procedure for disposal of paper and electronic records when a current employee retires? Or dies? Prior to retirement, a current employee should create a directory for paper records or develop a shared drive for all electronic records (including e-mail) that will be utilized by their administrative unit upon their retirement. Within thirty (30) days of said retirement, the employee’s computer can be scrubbed and put back into use, unless subject to a litigation hold (then contact the Office of General Counsel).

    If a current employee dies prior to creating such a records use plan, the budget executive for the administrative unit, in consultation with local Human Resources, will assign an individual to work with the area’s Records Management Liaison or Records Management Assistant to review and manage paper records according to AD35 retention schedules and to coordinate efforts between local and central IT to identify and transfer electronic records.

  4. Personnel Files for Faculty Employees-- How long should we keep the personnel files of faculty members? All faculty personnel files are considered permanent. This includes fixed term faculty, standing faculty, department heads and administrators.  Three (3) years after they leave the University (resignation, retirement, etc.) the local unit files must be sent to the University Archives or, in the case of electronic files, the local unit files must be moved to the electronic archive. Central Human Resource files for retirees are maintained for three (3) years after death benefits are closed.
  5. Personnel Files for Staff and Wage Payroll Employees -- How long should we keep staff and wage payroll personnel files? Unit staff and wage payroll files are not permanent records and may be destroyed (shredded, deleted or purged) three (3) years after the staff or wage payroll employee leaves the University (resignation, retirement, etc.). Central Human Resource files for retirees are maintained for three (3) years after death benefits are closed.
  6. Do we need to keep unit personnel files of staff or wage payroll employees now working in other units at the University? You should retain these files for three (3) years. After three (3) years you can shred or purge them. Personnel files of staff and wage payroll employees do not follow employees from one unit to another.
  7. Search Committee materials – To comply with Affirmative Action requirements, search committee materials (including letters of recommendation) are maintained for three (3) years. After three (3) years you can shred or purge them. 
     
  8. Visa and Immigration Paperwork -- What happens to the paperwork that is housed in I-Start? The Office of Global Programs is required to adhere to numerous retention schedules because of the different Visa types, government departments, and issuing authorities. Global Programs follows the schedules closely and all their documentation is housed securely on a stand-alone server. Therefore, departments do NOT need to keep copies of immigration and visa paperwork. Transactional copies, outside of Global Programs, must be shredded or purged. Offices may keep a ‘working file’ for a short period of time, but must shred copies of the documentation as soon as possible.

C. FACULTY Records

  1. Who is responsible for ensuring that faculty members are compliant with the policy? The Budget Executive will be responsible for documenting compliance for all faculty, staff and students within their administrative area.
  2. The following documents are considered Faculty Personal Papers. They are NOT subject to retention periods NOR will they be maintained or managed in central administrative offices. (see the General Retention Schedule)
    • Articles or reprints are not permanent records and may be destroyed (shredded, deleted, or purged) three (3) years after the publication date. Retention for longer periods of time is at the faculty member’s personal discretion and management. Articles or reprints may be deposited in ScholarSphere if a faculty member owns the copyright or the article is open access. If a faculty member does not own the copyright or the article is not open access they may be sent to University Archives in print or as a pdf.
    • Books and manuscripts are not permanent records, and retention is at the faculty member’s personal discretion and management.  However, please submit one (1) copy upon publication to University Archives.
    • Class syllabi are not permanent records and may be destroyed (shredded, deleted or purged) three (3) years after the course end date. Retention for longer periods of time is at the faculty member’s personal discretion and management.
    • Class lists are not permanent records and may be destroyed (shredded, deleted or purged) three (3) years after the course end date. Retention for longer periods of time is at the faculty member’s personal discretion and management. However, all Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as Social Security and student ID numbers MUST be redacted if faculty choose to keep copies for their personal use.
    • Letters of recommendation – Retain for three (3) years. After three (3) years they can be shredded or purged. Faculty who choose to retain these letters for longer periods of time do so as personal records.
    • Theses and dissertations are not permanent records and retention is at the faculty member’s personal discretion and management. Note that University Libraries maintain one (1) electronic copy permanently.
  3. Can faculty members’ scholarly files be kept on University property after they have exceeded the retention period? Scholarly files are not considered University records so there is no retention period for them. They are the personal property of the faculty member. Faculty members are encouraged to utilize storage resources such as ScholarSphere for retention of scholarly files if they wish.
  4. The following documents are considered University Records and are often in the possession of faculty, therefore, they are subject to retention periods and destruction afterwards is required:
    • Advisor files (3 years after last student activity)
    • Conference, seminar or workshop agendas that were hosted and/or grant-sponsored at Penn  State (3 years after program completion; send one copy of program to University Archives)
    • Correspondence, including email, that pertains directly to Penn State business decisions (3 years)
    • Examinations and answer sheets (1 year after administered)
    • Grade books, grade sheets, grade appeals (5 years after course completion)
    • Non-disclosure agreements (3 years after grant ends, unless otherwise mandated)
    • Search committee meeting minutes, correspondence with candidates (3 years after search concluded)
    • University-related publications such as annual reports, bibliographies, biographies, vitas, newsletters, promotional literature, speeches, presentations, talks (submit one (1) copy to University Archives)
  5. The following documents may or may not be in the possession of faculty members but are the responsibility of other units in the University for retention:
    • Class lists (maintained permanently by the Registrar’s Office)
    • Federal and non-federal grant applications (including rejected), interim publications, publications, products and final reports [NOTE: Publications and final reports can be submitted to the University Archives for permanent retention. Many funding agencies archive these documents electronically and are the record keeper for long-term retention.]
    • Licenses (including software) agreements
    • Research clearance forms
    • SRTEs (see Question 6)
    • Textbook orders
    • Theses and dissertations (University Libraries maintain one (1) electronic copy permanently; all other copies are transactional and considered faculty personal records)
    • Travel itineraries, expense forms and reservations (3 years)
    • Written candidacy and comprehensive examinations (ensure that the Graduate program receives a copy of these for their use)
  6. Retention of paper SRTEs (numerical and discursive forms) The General Retention Schedule identifies two (2) types of SRTE retention (Summaries used for Promotion and Tenure, and Online Summaries)  under the "Human Resources" category.
    1. Summaries used for Promotion and Tenure are retained for Promotion and Tenure processes. Therefore, paper copies of summaries should be retained for five (5) years after creation. Copies of summaries older than five (5) years may be shredded. This is done by placing them in the Blue Bags, sending them to the Inactive Records Center for shredding or via a special request to OPP.  If  older copies of SRTES are offered back to faculty, be sure to inform them that they are responsible for confidential storage off-campus.
    2. Online summaries will, eventually, be retained for ten (10) years online after creation, after which they will be purged.
  7. Retention of paper ‘Instructional Activities Data Reports’. The data contained in these reports is summarized and held elsewhere at the University, so these reports only need to be kept in the department for Promotion and Tenure processes. Shred reports that are older than five (5) years.  If older copies are offered back to faculty, be sure to inform them that they are responsible for confidential storage off-campus.
  8. How long should I keep transactional emails (emails between students, faculty, colleagues, etc) that do not reach a conclusion or document a University decision? Should they be dealt with on a case by case basis, or can faculty simply delete all transactional emails? Faculty can choose to delete all transactional emails one (1) year after receipt, unless notified of cause for litigation hold.
  9. How long should I keep an initial email from a student about a grade dispute that was then forwarded to the appropriate director and adjudicated through an official process? Retain for one (1) year after dispute has been settled or transferred.
  10. Are the retention periods listed for each category of document the minimum retention periods or the maximum retention periods? Retention periods refer to the recommended time period after which records can be destroyed, must be transferred to the Archives, or revert to management as personal records. Minimum retention periods require destruction. Permanent record designations require transfer to the Archives. Records that will be maintained beyond retention recommendations as personal papers are no longer treated as University records.

D. STUDENT Records

  1. Retention of documentation about a case of a student being terminated for unsatisfactory scholarship and intimidating behavior. How should we handle the retention on these documents?  These files are currently being maintained for review purposes in case of reapplication or employment. These records will be maintained for ten (10) years after the case is closed. 

    NOTE: Judicial Affairs records are maintained centrally.

  2. Retention of paper copies of enrollment data (i.e. student credit by hour data reports) The data contained in these reports is summarized and held elsewhere. Administrative area copies are retained for five (5) years.
  3. Undergraduate Student Files -- The official student record according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is the transcript. Transcripts are permanent records held within the University Registrar’s Office and the University Archives (depending on their age). All other undergraduate student records are not considered permanent files. Undergraduate student records must be shredded or purged five (5) years after the student has left the University.

    NOTE 1: The five (5) year retention schedule for the complete undergraduate student record (containing multiple documents) supersedes the retention schedule for the individual documents contained within the file, unless otherwise mandated.

    NOTE 2: In some units using DocFinity, the Budget Executive's office manages the archive process. In order for this process to be successful, departments must ensure that all files with the status of ‘graduated or ‘withdrawn’ have a file close date entered.

  4. Graduate Student Files The retention schedule for the complete graduate student record (containing multiple documents) supersedes the retention schedule for the individual documents contained within the file.

    If the student received an assistantship or fellowship, then his or her file is considered a permanent file and should be transferred to the University Archives. This means that three (3) years after they leave the University the files can be sent to the University Archives or, in the case of electronic files, the files will be moved to the electronic archive. Graduate student files (for students who do NOT receive an assistantship or fellowship) are not considered permanent files and should be kept in the unit, either in DocFinity or on paper, for three (3) years after the student has left the university.

  5. Graduate Student Transcripts Graduate student transcripts received from other institutions are filed and maintained by the Graduate School. If you wish to keep a copy for your own unit’s reference, you can scan or copy the transcript and retain it in the unit. If the transcript is an original, offer it back to the student. If the student does not want it, you should shred it. The Office of the University Registrar processes all requests for official transcripts for Penn State students. The Office of the University Registrar can also access student information via the student information system.

RESOURCES:

General Retention Schedule

Financial Record Retention Schedule

Records Management Web site

Inactive Records Center Web site

University Archives Web site

OPP Blue Bag Web site

AD11 - University Policy on Confidentiality of Student Records

AD53 - Privacy Policy

 

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Effective Date: May 4, 2016
Date Approved: May 2, 2016
Date Published: May 4, 2016

Most recent changes:

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • May 4, 2016 - New FAQ to summarize and support Policy AD35.