Records Management Policy FAQ

In June 2018, the President's Cabinet approved a new university-wide policy regarding records management: POL-U4910.03 Managing University Records. This policy provides a framework for meeting existing statutory obligations to manage university records and incorporates many of the practices and structures already in place at WWU. Below are some frequently asked questions about this policy, and University Archives and Records Management's (UARM) answers to them.

For questions or concerns, please contact Rachel Thompson, x6654, or Tony Kurtz, x3124. 

Applicability of policy

What records does this policy cover? Why should I care about it?

This policy covers all university records and applies to all WWU employees. All university employees have a responsibility to create, maintain, and destroy records according to the rules outlined in this policy. 

All of our information is digital/electronic/virtual/in the cloud, so I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Why should I care about this policy?

The definition of public record applies to information recorded on any media type. This includes information stored on digitally. All that matters is that the information is retained or recorded by Western for the purpose of carrying out the University’s functions. This means that the retention and disposition requirements outlined in law and in this policy apply to your digital/electronic/virtual information, as well as your “traditional” paper records.

Recordkeeping unit/Office

What is a recordkeeping unit? What’s an office?

A recordkeeping unit is “any organizational entity consisting of one or more employees whose activities are purposeful and therefore accountable through the records it creates or with which it interacts.”

In short, a recordkeeping unit is what we (in University Archives and Records Management) call an “office:” an office, department, center, division, institute, committee, board, or any other body/unit that works together to fulfill a function. As the term “office” has been used for many years at Western, we plan to continue to use it, rather than “recordkeeping unit” to describe these entities. (The term “recordkeeping unit” was developed for the University policy in order to better differentiate what we consider to be an “office” from other policies’ definitions.)

In the past, offices have been formally identified by University Archives and Records Management primarily when someone in the unit has contacted us for assistance. Due to this organic way of identifying unique offices at Western, there may be gaps in the offices we have identified.

Recordkeeping unit authority/Office head

I’ve been notified I’m the recordkeeping unit authority/office head. What does this mean? What do I have to do?

The recordkeeping unit authority is the individual responsible for a recordkeeping unit (that is, office). The recordkeeping unit authority defaults to the head of an office as identified in official University organizational charts. Generally, this will be a manager, director, dean, department chair, or vice president/provost. While a recordkeeping unit authority/office head may oversee a unit with multiple sub-units reporting to it, in general, the office head will only be the office head for their immediate office. For example, the dean of a college will be the office head for their dean’s office (generally under the college’s name); however, department chairs will be the office head for the unique departments (sub-units). To be consistent with other terms used by UARM, as well as for simplicity’s sake, UARM will generally refer to these individuals as “office heads.”

The office head is ultimately accountable for the records that their office creates. As part of that, they are:

  • Copied in disposition notices sent to the office for any records eligible for destruction that are stored in the Records Center
  • Responsible for appointing records coordinators when necessary
  • Copied in the annual review questionnaire of retention schedules and recordkeeping practices required by law and sent out by UARM

Records Coordinator

What is a records coordinator? How is that different from the recordkeeping unit authority/office head?

The records coordinator is appointed by the office head (see above) to act as a liaison with University Archives and Records Management for that office. The records coordinator does not have ultimate responsibility for decisions made about recordkeeping in the office; they are simply the primary contact point for UARM with the office. The office head is still ultimately responsible for the office’s records. If appropriate, the office head may designate themselves as the records coordinator.

The records coordinator’s responsibilities are to work with UARM to:

  • Keep retention schedules up-to-date,
  • Ensure the office’s recordkeeping practices are in compliance with State law and University policy
  • Coordinator the transfer and maintenance of records stored in the Records Center

Who should be the records coordinator for my office?

The records coordinator should be familiar with how records are created/maintained by the office, be able to convey questions to UARM regarding recordkeeping, as well as work with others in the office to answer any questions UARM may have about the office’s recordkeeping practices. The records coordinator does not necessarily need to be involved in all aspects of records creation and management in the office, but they should have a good grasp of the office’s workflows and records.

How do I update who is listed as the records coordinator or appoint someone new to be a records coordinator?

The recordkeeping unit authority/office head will need to contact University Archives and Records Management if there needs to be a change in records coordinator due to position/role or personnel changes. Email Rachel Thompson with the name and contact information for the new records coordinator.

Other Terms

What is a records system? 

A records system is any systematic way of managing records. It can be as simple as an individual’s file drawer. Or it can be a complex enterprise-wide information system, like Banner. It can mean a paper-based method of filing or a completely paperless information storage and retrieval system. All of these types of systems (and many more not described here) must be managed and comply with the requirements outlined in the policy.

Public Records vs. Disclosable Records

Please note that while essentially all recorded information at Western falls under the definition of a public record, this does not mean that all information in these records can be disclosed to the public. RCW 42.56 lays out some of the basics restrictions on what information can be disclosed to the public, and there are many other laws that may prevent information from being disclosed to the public.

You can find these terms and others used in our policy in our Archives and Records Management Glossary.

For questions, please contact Rachel Thompson, x6654, or Tony Kurtz, x3124.