Graduation season has come again! Most of the colleges here at Mason will be using the quiet months ahead to pack away the files of the spring graduates who have finished their academic career. For some offices, that means small hills of archival boxes packed against the wall until they can get them out of their way to make room for the incoming summer and fall students.
As a state university, Mason is required to follow the Public Records Act policies set forth by the Commonwealth. The Library of Virginia has set specific guidelines for state colleges that certain types of student records need to be retained for specific periods of time before the universities are allowed to dispose of them. Those laws do not just apply to paper records, but our digital-born documentation as well!
University Records Management works with Mason offices to ensure that all faculty and staff are aware of the retention requirements and that there are resources available to help with issues such as long-term storage. Most student documents are temporary records – this means is that the records are eligible for shredding, burning, or pulping after a certain number of years after graduation. Some types of information – such as students’ grades – are considered permanent records, and it is up to University Records Management to ensure that Mason maintains the security and accessibility of these records forever. Not just 100 or 10,000 years, but forever. Or until the Library of Virginia decides that maybe 10,000 is a bit too long.
Starting any day now, Mason faculty and staff will begin sorting through graduates’ files and dividing them up between the different types of records series; some examples of series are admission files, academic counseling files. Once they are aware of how much paper there is, someone usually reaches out to University Records Management to acquire archival boxes to store these records for the remainder of their life cycle. When these boxes are packed and labels with the contents and inclusive records dates, the Records Manager arranges to have them stored at the University Records Center on Fairfax campus. There, the records are kept safe and sound until an office needs to request a file back or until the records meet their retention period.
Then it is time to call in the shredders!
Here are some helpful definitions:
Permanent Record – Materials created or received in the conduct of affairs that are preserved by the creator because of the enduring historical value or as evidence of the roles and responsibilities of the creator
Records Series – Group of similar or related records that are arranged according to a file system and that are related as the result of being created, received, or used in the same activity
Life Cycle – Distinct phases of a record’s existence, from creation, to use, to maintenance, and finally disposition
(Definitions are from the Library of Virginia Public Records Management Manual)
For more information about SCRC and Records and Information Management look here.
The University Records Manager is Samara Carter. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.993.2201.