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 five years. The next UTHSC revision is due July 2018 although yearly amendments are also submitted. 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?

A departmental Records Management Representative (RMR) who has taken the required records management training may dispose of records listed on the Records Retention Schedule following their approved retention period without asking permission of the Records Management Officer or of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. A Disposition Log listing all the records disposed of and signed by the departmental Records Management Representative must be sent 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 the Records Management Officer 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 the Records Management Officer in the library.

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 the 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. If the Certificate contains the same information as that listed on the Disposition Log , it may be used in lieu of filling out a Disposition Log.  This includes for each type of record listed the Record Series Title, Agency Item Number, required retention period, and the dates of the records included in the destruction.

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?

  • Only official state records, those listed on the Records Retention Schedule, may be stored in the warehouse.
  • Do not send personal items such as books and journals.
  • The records must have at least 2 years left in their required retention period.
  • You must designate a destruction date for records sent to the warehouse.  Permanent records are generally not accepted as there is not enough room.
  • Note: All records in the box should have the same retention period as warehouse staff will discard the entire box at one time.

On the Materials Management (General Services) Storage Request form you should include for each box # a list of all the record series in the box.  For each record series listed include 1) the Agency Item Number (in the column for Record Series #) and 2) the official Record Series Title, official retention period, and date range of records included (in the Description column) .

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 (see next topic for examples) — they should be shredded instead.  Ask the warehouse if they can store the records until the next free university shred day.  If not, the department must pay for the shredding of the records.

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 where 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 in departments by using a small shredder. For large volumes of paper, contact the UTHSC Accounting department for information on shredding companies with state contracts.  Information Security occasionally offers a free Shred Day for the university.  You can also contact them to see if one is coming soon.

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

Departments with federal grants are the only departments required to keep IDTs and billing detail.  Accounting scans these records but only keeps them for FE+3 (3 years after the end of the fiscal year in which they were created).  Fiscal records for federal grants must be kept for 6 years after the end of the grant, so departments must have them on hand to show federal auditors. Departments may keep the current year  or two in the department and send the remaining years (at least 2) to the UTHSC Warehouse with a date to destroy the records written on the box.

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 2016 fiscal year runs from September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016.

The calendar year runs from January 1 through December 31 of the year. For example, the 2016 calendar year runs from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.

To figure out when documents may be destroyed, you can either count backwards from the beginning of the current year (fiscal or calendar) to determine which old documents may be destroyed or count forward from the end of the year 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 (close of grant plus 3 years).  Fiscal records for federal grants are kept longer, AC+6.

Note, however, that grants involving clinical trials and drug studies can only be kept for 3 years after either 1) notification of new drug application approval or 2) completion, termination, or discontinuation of study if it does not result in a submission of application for research or marketing permit. This includes research data and documentation, case reports, study protocols, etc.

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, except for clinical trials.

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. This includes certifications, training certificates, most current licenses, 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.