Frequently Asked Questions about Records Management

What is Records Management?

Records management is the application of management techniques to the creation, use, maintenance, retention, preservation and destruction of records for the purposes of improving the efficiency of record keeping.

Why is Records Management Important?

There are many reasons — legal requirements, open records requests and litigation, disaster recovery, lack of space, and backup of vital records. Texas laws require all state agencies, including state educational institutions, to maintain an active records management program with an appointed Records Management Officer and an approved Records Retention Schedule for state records.

Is there training available on Records Management?

Training classes are available for Records Management Representatives for each department and any other interested staff. See the Records Management Classes page for more information.

What are the duties of the departmental Records Management Representatives?

The Records Management Representative (RMR) for each department is responsible for helping the Library update the department’s records in the Records Retention Schedule. A full list of duties is available on the Records Management Representatives page.

What is the definition of a state record? Are all records at the UTHSC considered state records?

A state record is any written, photographic, machine-readable or other recorded information created or received by or on the behalf of a state agency or elected state official that documents activities in the conduct of state business or use of public resources.

The following are examples of documents that are not considered state records: library or museum material, reference materials, stocks of publications, blank forms, convenience copies, and alternative dispute resolution documentation.

What is the Records Retention Schedule?

The Records Retention Schedule, known as the RRS, provides information on the location of records, how long records must be kept before they are destroyed, confidentiality of records, and whether records are considered vital to the institution. Each state agency must submit a revised Records Retention Schedule every three years. The next UTHSC revision is due September 2009. To facilitate this process, each UTHSC department is requested to appoint a Records Management Representative (RMR) who will work with Library staff to revise their department’s records in the RRS.

Do I need permission to destroy records listed on the Records Retention Schedule?

You may dispose of records on the schedule following their approved retention period without asking permission of the Records Management Officer (Anne Comeaux) or of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. You do need to keep a Disposition Log listing all the records you dispose of, have the log signed by your departmental Records Management Representative, and send this log immediately to the UTHSC Records Management Officer.

May records not listed on the Records Retention Schedule be destroyed?

Some records, such as phone messages, fall under the general category of Transitory Information and may be discarded after they have fulfilled their purpose. Transitory records are records of temporary usefulness that are not an integral part of a records series of the University, that are not regularly filed within the University’s record keeping system, and that are required only for a limited period of time for the completion of an action by an official or employee of the University or in the preparation of an on-going records series. Transitory records are not essential to the fulfillment of statutory obligations or to the documentation of University functions.

Most records, however, are not transitory in nature. Destruction of any non-transitory state record that is not on the RRS must be approved by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Departments must send information on such records needing destruction to Anne Comeaux in the Library, who will obtain approval from the Texas State Library.

Do I have to keep any kind of documentation on the records I destroy?

You must fill out a Disposition Log describing the records you have destroyed. Blank disposition log forms (and a sample completed form) are available from the Library Forms page. The log must be signed by your departmental Records Management Representative then sent to Anne Comeaux, Records Management Officer.

What is a Disposition Log, and how long does my department have to keep them?

A disposition log is a document that tracks the final disposition (removal) of records from a state agency. The retention period for disposition logs is 10 years. Departments should send the original to the Briscoe Library to Anne Comeaux, Records Management Officer, who will keep the official copy. Departmental copies are convenience copies and may be discarded when no longer valuable. Blank disposition log forms (and a sample completed form) are available from the Library Forms page.

Can the Warehouse Certificate of Destruction be used as my disposition log?

The warehouse issues a Certificate of Destruction to departments after it destroys records belonging to that department. Under certain circumstances, the Certificate may be used in lieu of filling out a Disposition Log.

Why are some records designated as “Vital” records?

Vital records are records that are necessary to the resumption or continuation of University operations in case of an emergency or disaster. They may also be records that are necessary to the recreation of the legal and financial status of the university. State law requires that vital records included on this list be backed up and stored off site.

Examples of vital records include: Contracts and leases, affiliation agreements, accounts payable ledgers, accounts receivable ledgers, federal tax records, employee earnings records,long-term liability records (bonds), insurance policies.

What kinds of records may be stored in the UTHSC warehouse?

Records that are stored in the warehouse must meet the requirements listed on the Records Management and the UTHSC Warehouse page.

How are records disposed of once they are removed from the UTHSC warehouse?

Periodically, warehouse staff determine which boxes have exceeded their disposition date and notify the responsible department that the box is eligible for final destruction. Copies of the original storage request and a Record Destruction Report are sent to the department. A department representative then signs and dates the Destruction Report form, permitting the warehouse to destroy the documents. Once permission is obtained, the boxes are pulled and taken to the recycler’s warehouse where they are mixed with documents from other sites then sent to a paper mill for pulping.

Do not recycle confidential documents — they should be shredded instead.

What types of records should be shredded?

Records that have confidential information should be shredded. State law only requires that such records be destroyed to the point there they are unrecoverable–it does not specify how. The pulping process of recycling of paper satisfies this requirement, but is not as secure as shredding.

Confidential information includes the following: social security numbers, medical records, investigation of alleged child abuse and neglect, juvenile court records, and student records.

Small volumes of paper may be shredded at the Warehouse by using the small shredder there. For large volumes of paper, contact the UTHSC Accounting department for information on shredding companies with state contracts.

Why do departments have to keep backup for IDTs and billing detail (4.1.002)?

Departments that are audited must show backup for all expenditures or else pay back the state and federal government. The RRS states such records must be kept 3 years beyond the end of the fiscal year in which the expenses were billed. Departments may keep the current year + 1 year in the department and send the other two years to the UTHSC Warehouse with a date to destroy the records written on the box. Remember, federal grant fiscal records should be kept for 6 years after the completion of the grant.

What is the difference between a fiscal year and a calendar year?

The fiscal year for UTHSC runs from September 1 of one year through August 31 of the following year. For example, the 2008 fiscal year runs from September 1, 2007 through August 31, 2008.

The calendar year runs from January 1 through December 31 of the year. For example, the 2008 calendar year runs from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008.

To figure out when documents may be destroyed, you can either count backwards from the current year to determine which old documents may be destroyed or count forward from the year of the document to determine when a document created during that year will be eligible for destruction. See the examples and spreadsheet calculator for more information.

How long must we keep documentation for charges against state accounts?

The state requires FE +3, or 3 years past the end of the fiscal year in which charges occurred.

How long must we keep grant records?

It depends on grant requirements and the type of record.

The Records Retention Schedule sets the retention period for federal grants to AC +5 (close of grant plus 5 years). Non-federal grants (state or privately funded) must be kept for AC+3 (3 years after close of grant).

Note, however, that grants involving clinical trials and drug studies must be kept for AC+15, 15 years after notification of new drug application approval or investigational new drug withdrawal. Fiscal records for federal grants must be kept for AC+6 (close of grant plus 6 years). The text portions of grants may be kept as long as needed as they are often re-used in subsequent grant applications. Medical research findings (research participant records, surveys, questionnaires, etc.) may also be kept as long as desired.

All of these are state requirements. Check with the granting agency to be sure they do not require a longer retention period.

How long must departments keep resumes, employment applications, etc.?

Individual departments do not have to keep applications, resumes, etc., as Human Resources does so. Any resumes received for employees that are hired should be sent to Human Resources for filing as employees often ask for them.

May we keep personnel files for separated employees longer than 5 years?

Documents used for credentialing or verification for employees who are health professionals may be kept for as long as they are deemed administratively valuable while such documents for Residents/Fellows must be kept permanently. These include licenses, certifications, training certificates, anything of value in responding to requests for credentialing or verification.

How long must travel expense backup, such as credit card bills & receipts, RTAs, etc. be kept?

FE+3 (3 years past the end of the fiscal year in which expense occurred). See Record Series 3.3.023 Reimburseable activities.