Retention Schedule Policy

Last updated: September 26, 2011


To provide University approved records retention and disposition schedules and storage procedures for University Management, Administration, Personnel, and Financial Records, including but not limited to records and documents created or maintained in electronic, paper or other media. For reasons of security, not all scheduled records appear here. If you have records not scheduled here, please call for further instructions (621-5666).

Policy Owner:

Director, Records Management & Archives.

Records Management & Archives Program

The University of Arizona is required by law, regulation, and best business practice to create and retain certain records as more generally described below. These standards apply regardless of whether the record is created or maintained on paper or electronic format. Simply changing the medium does not change our obligation to create or store records.

The University of Arizona's Records Management & Archives Department (RMAA) and Records Center provides a mandated records retention and disposition program. The department's mission is to:

  • Protect the rights of students, the University and its employees.
  • Reduce the University's risk and liability in litigation through compliance with applicable policy, law and regulations.
  • Provide an efficient and cost effective records management program to all university departments.
  • Expand availability of expensive, on-campus office space by the transfer of inactive records to the Records Center for storage.
  • Provide cost-avoidance to university units through the provision of centrally staffed records management.

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What is a record?

The University of Arizona adheres to the definition of a record found in A.R.S. § 41-151.18.  According to this state statute, "unless the context otherwise requires, 'records' means all books, papers, maps, photographs or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including prints or copies of such items produced or reproduced on film or electronic media pursuant to section 41-151.16, made or received by any governmental agency in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by the agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the government, or because of the informational and historical value of data contained in the record, and includes records that are made confidential by statute. Library or museum material made or acquired solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference and stocks of publications or documents intended for sale or distribution to interested persons are not included within the definition of records as used in this article."

Links to the state statutes associated with A.R.S. § 41-151.18:

A.R.S. § 41-151.16  Production and reproduction of records by agencies of the state and political subdivisions; admissibility; violation; classification

A.R.S. § 41-151.15  Preservation of public records

A.R.S. § 39-101  Permanent public records; quality; storage; violation; classification

A.R.S. § 38-421  Stealing, destroying, altering or secreting public record; classification

Records as defined above, which include electronic records, are the property of the Arizona Board of Regents. They are in no sense personal property nor are they the property of a specific unit, department, or college.

As stated previously, do not assume that records include only paper materials. In the statutory definition above, the phrase "regardless of physical form or characteristics" establishes that records include any type of electronic file or data, machine-readable output, email, still photographs, motion pictures, audio recordings, charts, maps, drawings, plans, video recordings, and micrographics, or any digitization magnetic tape or other electronic storage of any of these things. This definition includes any University records in home computers or mobile devices.

Departments generating or controlling original records or designated "record copies" of original records should note the following: Multiple copies of the same document may each have record status, same as the original, if they serve a separate administrative purpose and are controlled under different filing systems.

All records must be retained in a readable format, so you must assure that electronic records are retained in a manner that the document remains readable regardless of changes in technology or equipment obsolescence. Printing out the documents and saving to a file system, maintaining the old equipment and software applications, or migrating the records to new technology, may meet this requirement. You must also assure that electronic documents meet relevant audit or tracking requirements. If you have any questions regarding the status of records in your department, please contact the University's Records Management and Archives.

The storage of inactive paper records is centralized through RMAA. RMAA does not have an "electronic" data warehouse at this time so the storage and preservation of electronic records (e.g., business related e-mail) is the responsibility of each user in the department involved in the relevant function or transaction being documented. However, with proper documentation/metadata, RMAA will accept electronic records on media for storage (e.g., disk, tape, etc.). The ability to read and retrieve information from these stored media rests with the owning department. If you are involved in designing or purchasing new electronic systems that create or store electronic records, please consult with RMAA.

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What is not considered a record for retention purposes (Non-record)

The University also defines specific materials that are not records for retention scheduling purposes (e.g. library and museum materials made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibit purposes, extra convenience copies of original documents and publications preserved for the convenience of reference). In addition there may be other materials that are not records, such as preliminary drafts not circulated for comment, some types of working papers, notes, personal e-mails created during incidental use, and similar items that would normally be disposed of when superseded or no longer needed. When in doubt about the status or classification of a record, check with the staff at RMAA. Usage of "Instant Messenger" (IM) to conduct official business is at this time is not recommended for various reasons.

The designated department copy or convenience copies of a business form are not considered a record copy unless specifically designated as such and scheduled for retention with RMAA. Therefore these convenience copies do not need to be retained for the period as assigned to the original record or other official records copies. Note that these additional copies may be considered "public records" and subject to production in response to public records requests when still available.

Departmental convenience copies/non-records should be kept within the department no longer than necessary for reference and never to exceed the retention period of the original. Department staff can destroy non-records without notifying RMAA, unless the documents are already or are expected to be subject to a public records request or litigation. In that case the non-record material may not be destroyed. This may include backup copies, regardless of media type used to create the backup..

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Records Disposition

All records made or received by employees of the University of Arizona that fit the legal definition of records noted above are the property of the Arizona Board of Regents; their disposition has been delegated to the University and must be approved prior to their deposition. The Director, of RMAA, has the sole responsibility (under the provisions of the approved records retention and dispositions schedules) to authorize the disposition of University of Arizona records.

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No University records, either stored at the records center or active at departments, that are involved in or are expected to be involved in public records requests, grievances, audits, litigation or other legal processes shall be transferred, disposed of or overwritten until they have been released for transfer, disposal or reuse by the relevant authority that is the source of the prohibition/restriction. This includes relevant non-record material such as convenience copies or relevant documents and backup system media.

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Common Retention Schedules

The University-approved common retention schedules provided here in PDF format is for the use of most university departments. There are four areas: Office Administration, Financial, University Management, and Personnel Management. Please call RMAA if you need to establish a retention schedule specifically for your department for records not covered by this common retention schedule.

Approved Common Retention Schedules

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