Skip to main content

Records Management: How Long Do I Keep Records?

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: How long do I keep recods?

How Long To Keep Records

The provisions of   Virginia’s Public Records Act govern the majority of materials created in or received by university offices other than exempted reference materials, and the law mandates further that no material that falls under the definition of public records may be destroyed without permission. There are legal penalties for destroying records without official authorization. Records retention schedules identify and describe an organization's records, usually at the series level, and provide instructions for the destruction or transfer of records throughout their life cycle. These schedules maintained by the Library of Virginia are known as General Schedules and are divided into broad categories including administrative records, college and university records, fiscal records, personnel records, and others. GS 111 is the General Schedule for college and university records.

Select General Schedules may also apply to records created at the College of William and Mary.

The Library of Virginia has added a Searchable Database that will scan across the various General Schedules, minimizing (but not entirely eliminating) the need for individuals to open and close the individual PDF files in order to locate an appropriate records series. The Searchable Database link is just under the Introduction and the Glossary.

Records Destruction

All offices must complete the Certificate of Records Destruction (RM-3 form) and submit it to the University Archivist before records can be destroyed. It is critical that offices not destroy records before the University Archivist has approved the destruction of the records. See the "Forms" box at right for an example of a completed RM_3 form.

The General Schedules for Virginia should always be consulted before submitting any records for destruction. Contact University Archives (757-221-3090) for assistance in preparing records and the proper form before destruction.

Guidelines and resources for the removal of data from electronic media are available from William & Mary Information Technology.

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.

Exceptions to Records Retention Schedules

Please note that if any records are still under audit, lawsuit, etc., at the time of the scheduled disposal date, those records cannot be destroyed until a specified amount of time after the resolution of all such pending or ongoing action. Contact the University Archives if you have questions about records disposal procedures or if your records require customized disposal.

If you have university records that are unique or do not fall within one of the above schedules, contact the University Archives for assistance.

If you hold university records that you believe should be retained for a period of time longer than what is mandated by the Library of Virginia, you must consult with and have the approval of the University Archivist. Contact the University Archives to discuss local College practices. Policies that differ from the Library of Virginia General Schedules will be made available to William and Mary offices from this site.

A Few Specific Examples

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.