Archives and Special Collections

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Records Retention Policy

Pacific Lutheran University recognizes the need for orderly management and retrieval of all official records and a documented records retention and destruction schedule congruent with all state and federal laws and related regulations. All official records (paper, microform, electronic, or any other media) will be retained for the minimum periods stated in the institutional Records Retention Schedule as approved by the university attorney and by the president's council. After a specified period of time, official records must be disposed of in a manner that is consistent with, and systematically carried out in accordance with, prescribed records and information management guidelines and procedures.


Duplicate files, duplicate copies, library materials, and stocks of obsolete forms or pamphlets originally intended for distribution are not considered to be official records or record copies. Duplicates or non-record convenience copies should be destroyed when they cease to be useful and should never be kept longer than the official record copy.

What Does it Do?

A Records Retention and Disposition Program facilitates a centralized and systematic control of records from their active use in offices to their transfer to inactive storage, disposition, or permanent retention.
Records retention schedules establish official retention and disposition periods for PLU. The program complies with federal requirements, is guided by the stipulations of the State of Washington, and follows other guidelines as applicable.


Why Do We Need a Records Retention Policy?

Control of Records


Through retention and disposition schedules, records are controlled from their active to their inactive status. Records of permanent value to the university are identified and transferred to The University Archives in a systematic manner.

Improved Efficiency


Distribution of retention schedules to each office enables all staff members to know what records exist and where they may be located. It eliminates duplication of effort by offices when an office is designated as an official record holder. Others may discard their copies after active use. It frees staff to devote greater energy to the maintenance of active files; needed records can be found more quickly. Misfiling is reduced as well as time spent looking for files.

Compliance with Legal Requirements


The Records Retention and Disposition Program identifies the legal requirements that apply, and specifies the period of time records must be kept.

The existence of a retention and disposition program with published schedules demonstrates to judges and government agencies that the university is retaining and disposing of records in accordance with published laws, in the regular course of business, and without motivation to conceal unfavorable information.

Protection During Litigation or Government Investigation


The Records Retention and Disposition Program ensures that records are handled properly in anticipation of, and during, litigation or government investigation. The retention period also reflects the university's assessment of potential harm to the university if records are destroyed too soon or retained too long.

Consistency in Records Retention and Disposition


Consistency provides for specific procedures and actions to be taken for records retention and disposition, thereby ensuring that records are maintained and disposed of in a uniform manner, which conforms to the university's stated policy. It reduces chances for inconsistent, reckless, or personally-motivated disposal of records.


What Types of Records?

Records that have administrative value
Records that have fiscal value
Records that have legal value
Records that have research/historical (archival) value


Administrative Value

Records have administrative value as long as they provide information needed for an agency's current or future operations. Generally, eighty percent of the references made to a record occur within one year from the date it is created. The administrative value of most records is exhausted within two years. However, a few records provide information about an agency's origin, organization, policies, and functions, which have long-term administrative value.


Fiscal Value

Records have fiscal value as long as they provide information needed to track revenue and expenditures or to document its financial transactions. Examples of records with primary fiscal value include budgets, allotments, ledgers, periodic accounting reports, vouchers, and warrants. Fiscal records that also have legal or official value, such as primary copies of budgets, ledgers, and vouchers, have longer-term retention value than fiscal records with administrative value, such as periodic accounting reports.


Legal Value

Records have legal value as long as they provide enforceable documentation of the agency's rights and obligations. Ordinances, resolutions, contracts, and agreements are examples of records of primary legal value. Some records, such as governing council minutes, ordinances, and resolutions, have permanent legal value. The legal value of other records, such as contracts and agreements, is limited by the time they remain in effect plus the statute of limitations on the agency's liability for the terms and conditions that they document. Thus, the standard retention period for contracts and agreements is termination plus six years.


Research/Historical (Archival) Value

Some records have long-term research value because they provide significant documentation concerning the development of the agency's mission, policies, programs, and the area(s) it serves through time. Once the agency determines that the administrative, legal, and fiscal needs for such records have been exhausted the records should be transferred to The University Archives for long-term preservation and research use.

The Institutional Records Retention Schedule provides a list of official records and prescribes the periods of authorized retention. The schedule may be revised periodically to include a newly created record series, to change retention periods, or to delete a record series no longer useful. Appropriate approval procedures must be followed and completed before any revisions would become effective.

All records should be kept for the minimum period listed in the Records Retention Schedule. Records should also be maintained until all required audits are completed and should be retained beyond the listed retention periods when there is a probability of litigation either involving records or requiring their use. Documents may be maintained for the prescribed minimum retention periods in microform. Official records kept only in electronic format must be identified in the Retention Schedule.