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Records Management

All employees of the College of William and Mary have legal and prudential obligations to retain and manage its records & Swem Library staff are available to assist you.

FAQ: Faculty/Staff

What is a record?

A public record is recorded information that documents a transaction or activity by or with any public officer, agency (i.e. the College of William and Mary), or employee of an agency. The medium upon which such information is recorded has no bearing on the determination of whether the recording is a public record.

How long should records be retained?

Records do not have one specific retention period, rather the length of time to keep a record depends on its content. Here are a few specific examples, but remember that there are many additional guidelines not mentioned here.

  • Class Rolls and Grade Sheets must be retained 3 years after the end of the semester and then destroyed by shredding or pulping paper records or wiping (not just deleting) electronic records and all of their backups.
  • Faculty Course Assignments/Schedules must be retained 3 years after the end of the semester, but as long as they do not have any confidential or privacy protected information they do not have to be shredded or wiped clean.
  • Faculty Guidance and Counseling of Students Records must be retain 1 year after graduation or last attendance, whichever is greater, and then destroyed by shredding or pulping paper records or wiping (not just deleting) electronic records and all of their back-ups.
  • Course Syllabi must be retained until superseded or obsolete, or in accordance with your department’s policy, whichever is greater. They may then be offered to the University Archives for the permanent collection.
  • Research Records vary based on the type of record and if there are requirements from a granting agency, but most must be retained for at least 3-5 years.

Descriptions of additional types of records and their retention guidelines are available online from the Library of Virginia.


Email or other electronic communication (including text messaging, instant messaging, etc.) does not have one specific retention period. Instead, the length of time we are required to retain an email depends on its content. Email should be thought of like paper in this context, and just as there is not one retention period for records printed on letter-sized paper as compared to legal-sized paper, electronic records are subject to various retention periods based on their content. Further, using email (or other electronic messaging) accounts other than those provided by the College of William and Mary does not remove the record from the provisions of Virginia's Public Records Act, assuming that the record was produced, collected, received or retained in connection with the transaction of public business.

How can records be destroyed?

The University Archivist serves as the College's designated Records Officer and grants all authorizations to destroy university records. When you have material that has reached its retention period, contact the University Archivist for authorization to destroy the records.

Timely Destruction of Records

Effective July 1, 2006, the Virginia Public Records Act was changed to include a provision for the timely destruction of records created after that date that include personally identifiable information. The Library of Virginia (the agency overseeing records management in the state) interprets “timely manner” to mean that records scheduled for destruction will be destroyed no later than the end of the year (calendar or fiscal) in which the retention period expires. Identifying information includes: social security number; driver's license number; bank account numbers; credit or debit card numbers; personal identification numbers; electronic identification codes; automated or electronic signatures; or passwords.

Are there exceptions to retention guidelines?

Any records under audit or lawsuit at the time of the scheduled disposal date - or any records relevant to litigation that the College reasonably anticipates may occur - cannot be destroyed until a specified amount of time after the resolution of all such pending or ongoing action. In the event that you may have access to records that are or may become relevant to claims or defenses in a lawsuit, the Office of the Attorney General will issue a “litigation hold” letter notifying you of your records retention obligations.

Office Moves

All offices and departments with a move in their future are encouraged to contact the University Archives for assistance in move preparations as pertains to transferring permanent or temporary records to the University Archives and/or destroying records. The University Archives can provide 90 minute training sessions, visit unit meetings for briefer question and answer sessions, and/or provide one-on-one assistance to offices as staffing allows. Contact University Archives ( or 757-221-3090) to discuss your records in preparation for your upcoming move.

Forms & Instructions


Library of Virginia RM-3 Preparation Instructions:    PDF or Videos

Certificate of Records Destruction    (RM-3 Online Form) - Required

Records Locator Inventory          (RM-20 form) - Optional