What is a record?

By law, University records are any papers, books, photographs, tapes, films, recordings, or other documentary materials, or any copies thereof, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made, produced, executed, or received by any department or office of the University or by any academic or administrative staff member in connection with the transaction of University business, and retained by that agency or its successor as evidence of its activities or functions because of the information contained therein.

University records include the data generated via automated information systems. If your office has developed a computer application to manage some particular facet of its operations, the information in that system is considered a University record, whether or not you generate any actual paper or hard copy from it.

You are not, however, responsible for information systems such as the accounting information system for which your office does not bear major responsibility. Although your office may access and/or input data into the accounting system, the responsibility for the system and its contents belongs to the business services-accounting office.

Certain categories of materials are not considered records including:

  • Stocks of printed or reproduced documents kept for supply purposes when file copies have been retained for records purposes; for example, handbooks or manuals prepared for the instruction of a particular course.
  • Books, periodicals, newspapers, and other library and museum materials made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes.
  • Duplicate microfilm.
  • Preliminary drafts of letters, memoranda, reports, worksheets, and informal notes which do not represent significant basic steps in the preparation of the record document.
  • Convenience copies of reports, memoranda, etc., for which your office was not the originator or the office of record, and which have not been annotated by your office.
  • Materials not filed as evidence for department operations that have no informational value, such as telephone call slips, letters of transmittal, route slips, etc.
  • When there is any doubt as to whether or not any document (paper or other format), record, or group of records is a University record, it should be considered an official record until determined otherwise. Any questions regarding the record should be directed to Records Management, which will carefully analyze the records in question and make the final determination.
  • While the definition of University records generally excludes books, periodicals, and other printed material, certain types of publications are collected by the UW Archives as official records of the University.