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Records Management

What is a Records Schedule?

Records are not only a basic tool of transacting business on behalf of Wisconsin state agencies, including the University of Wisconsin System (UWS), they are also the foundation for government accountability. Therefore, records management is regulated by Wisconsin state law, and accordingly, records schedules provide legal authorization to dispose of common records on a regularly scheduled basis. Wisconsin statutes provide for the orderly disposition of all public records through the approval of Records Retention/Disposition Authorization (RDA) by the Public Records Board (PRB). An RDA is a customized statement of records scheduling, or commonly known as a records schedule. It provides instructions and information as to the record content, format, length of the retention period, official record location and disposition. The RDA assists agencies in managing records from creation through disposition or during the record's life cycle.

Overseeing the management of the state’s public records, the Public Records Board protects the financial, legal, administrative, and historical interests of the State through the review of records schedules prepared by state agencies, including the University. All university offices must seek written approval from the PRB before disposing of any public record; approved records schedules must be reviewed and resubmitted every 10 years. The records scheduling process enables the board to ensure that records are preserved permanently, if they are of long-term historical value, or else retained and disposed of in the proper manner at the correct time.

The records schedule is the key document for establishing a records management program for state agencies. A records schedule is a policy document that provides certain descriptive information about a given set of records and contains guidelines for complying with legal, fiscal and archival requirements for records retention and provides advice on cost-effective management of records. Records schedules indicate to offices throughout the State of Wisconsin, as well as the University of Wisconsin System, how long to keep their records (called the retention period) and what to do with those records once that time has passed (called the disposition instructions), e.g., destroy, confidentially destroy or archive. State agencies, including UW System, are statutorily required to provide records schedules for all records not already covered by an existing records schedule.

Under Wisconsin law, each state agency is responsible for properly managing its records with approval from the PRB. For UW System, the Board of Regents is responsible for the proper management of the University's records. The Board of Regents may, and often does, delegate or rescind the administration and operation of records management to chancellors who may delegate the records management responsibility to designated staff such as the Records Management Officer. The records scheduling process is accomplished by the Records Management Officer completing an appropriate records schedules and submitting it to the UW System Records Officer Council and the PRB for approval .

The purpose of general records schedules is to:

  • Provide UW institutions/state agencies with uniform guidelines for the retention and disposition of common records;
  • Ensure that UW institutions/state agencies retain records as long as needed in order to complete the transaction of business on behalf of the UW and state of Wisconsin, and to meet legal, audit, archival, and other state of Wisconsin and federal requirements;
  • Provide UW institutions/state agencies with legal authorization to dispose of expired records on a regularly scheduled basis after minimum retention periods are met; and
  • Promote the cost-effective management of records.

UW System-wide Records Schedules (UWS)

In the interest of efficiency, UW System Records Officers developed general records schedules for certain records types that are common to all University of Wisconsin institutions, so as to avoid making each institution secure a distinct retention schedule for the same categories of records.

These schedules set minimum retention policy and applicable to all of UW Colleges and UW-Extension as well as other UW campuses and system records.

All departments or units are required to follow the retention and disposition recommendations set out in these schedules for their similar records or submit their own RDA proposal (see below Specific Records Schedule) for review and approval.

The advantages of using the general records schedule include:

  • Consistent retention periods for the same type of records throughout the institution,
  • Reflection of business processes,
  • Promotion of standard naming conventions and time-saving for each departments/units to submit individual records retention schedules.
  • Time savings for departments/units by not having to submit individual records retention schedules.

The disadvantages of using the general records are:

  • Intensive time required to analyze business processes and research all the requirements, including legal, by the records officers and
  • Training of staff on the naming conventions may be needed.

Wisconsin Department of Administration Records Schedules (DOA)

These schedules apply to records produced by all state government agencies, including the University of Wisconsin. If you cannot find a schedule for a particular record from the UW System-wide general records schedule, you should refer to and follow the Wisconsin Department of Administration Records Schedules. It should be noted that some of the DOA’s general schedules were not adopted by UW System; however, you may follow any of the DOA’s schedules posted on this web page. Consult with the Records Officer if you have questions.

UW Colleges or UW-Extension Specific Records Schedules

Specific records schedules may be customized for individual departments for unique records that are not covered by UWS or DOA general schedules. These customized schedules apply to individual campuses, departments, divisions, or units within the UW Colleges or UW-Extension and are for specific records only. They are approved by the Public Records Board. Specific Records Schedules set retention policies, dictating retention and disposition for records types that are specific to a particular department or unit. Usually these specific and customized schedules use the Records Retention/Disposition Authorization (RDA) form.

 

CONDITIONS AFFECTING FINAL DISPOSITION

All recommended dispositions provided within these schedules may be carried out by UW Colleges and UW-Extension without further consultation or approval from the University of Wisconsin Archives, legal services, or internal audit services. However, if an institution receives a public records request pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 19.35 et seq. for any record or records included within this schedule, then the record(s) cannot be destroyed until the request is granted, or until at least sixty days after the date the request is denied. Court orders may extend this time period.


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