University Record Disposition and Disposal of University Records

IMPORTANT: These policies apply to records in all formats and media.

There are Conditions which affect the Final Disposition of records where the records schedule is suspended and held until completed.

Conditions Affecting Final Disposition

All recommended dispositions stated within these schedules may be carried out by the office without further consultation or approval from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, Office of Legal Affairs or Internal Audit with the following exceptions:

  • Records Request. If an open records request has been made with an office for any item or items in this schedule, the Open Records Law (Sec.19.35 (5) Wis. Stats.) forbids the destruction of any record until the request is granted or until at least sixty days after the date that the request is denied. Court orders may extend this time period. The University’s legal records custodian can advise offices on specific requests for access (Sec. 19.33 and 19.34, Wis. Stats.)
  • Pending Litigation or Audit. It is the department’s responsibility to determine if an audit or pending litigation will involve any records listed in a Records Disposition Authorization, and to suspend any disposition until such time as the audit or litigation is completed.
  • Duplicate records. Duplicates may be destroyed when their administrative usefulness has ceased. A separate records schedule is not required to dispose of such duplicates.

How do I dispose of records?

Record disposition is the final phase in a record’s life cycle. It normally involves two possibilities: destruction of the record or transfer to the University Archives for preservation. On rare occasions, the disposition may be to transfer to another State or Federal agency. The disposition of a records series is noted on the records schedule (RDA).

Disposition of records should occur routinely in accordance with the provisions of the University Records Schedule. This ensures that file space will be used efficiently and lessens the possibility that active records which are needed for day-to-day operations do not become interfiled with records which have outlived their administrative usefulness.

In 2007, a campus committee comprised of members from SWAP, Legal Services, Purchasing, and Records Management developed the document Guidelines for University departments concerning best practices for the disposal and destruction of records. This publication offers guiding principles for the proper disposal of University records in all formats.

Onsite: To dispose of university records onsite, it is good records management practice to log the boxes destroyed against the record series used in the records retention schedule.  This can be done by using a spread sheet that is kept with the Department Records Management File Plan.  Here is Records Destruction Log template which can be used to document the destruction. Records Destruction Log – Filled out Example.

Records Disposition and Destruction Guidelines” [pdf]

Physical Destruction, Non-Confidential

When the final disposition of the records is DESTROY, and the records have been retained within your office area, it is appropriate to place the material in your building’s recycling or trash receptacles. It is not necessary to notify the Archives or seek further authorization. The approved RDA is your authorization to destroy. If records are stored at the State Records Center, the department will receive a report two times a year requesting authorization to destroy those boxes that have met their retention time.

Physical Destruction, Confidential

When the final disposition is DESTROY CONFIDENTIAL, special precautions must be taken to ensure that the material is securely handled prior to and during the destruct process. Records marked confidential must not be placed in trash receptacles, which would permit access by those not authorized to view the information, nor in containers which would permit the material to be easily scattered, such as boxes or other containers without secure lids.

The same precautions that were taken to protect access during the record’s active life need to be extended to the inactive period and during the final disposition.

The State Records Center can assist you with confidential shredding.  See Using the State Records Center.

There are also information technology polices for Media and Device Disposal and Reuse.

There are exceptions to the destruction of university records and the suspension of university records schedules.  

The exceptions are for:

  • LITIGATION,
  • AUDIT 
  • OPEN RECORDS

If a request for information has been filed for records under the open records law or the records are involved in litigation or audit, destruction may NOT be carried out until all legal or audit action has concluded. The records under these exceptions are held and the records schedules are suspended until the litigation has been settle, the audit has been completed and resolved or the open record/public records request has been fulfilled.  Once this has been completed, the schedule are resumed in the normal course of business.

If you have questions, please contact the University Records Officer.