Records Retention

Records Retention


Chief Operations Officer


Records Management Officer, Director of Compliance





Effective Date:

22/2021 /6

Implementation History:

First draft Feb. 2018, Revised 6/22/2021


Records, Retention, Schedule, Information Security

Background Information:

Records that are kept past the required retention period pose a risk to the university. When record retention schedules are followed proactively, they help to avoid risks and preserve resources. Employees have an obligation to properly dispose of records that they are not obligated to retain and/or no longer serve a legal, operational, or historic value. Following records retention schedules and the procedures in this policy supports the university’s enterprise risk management goals.


In accordance with Section 57.05 of the NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, official records of the state-operated campuses of the State University of New York and SUNY System Administration must be retained and may not be destroyed unless pursuant to applicable records retention schedules. Retention schedules are referenced in two policies that govern record retention that the university must follow. A retention scheduled specific to SUNY institutions is found in the SUNY Records Retention and Disposition Policy 6609 (Appendix A). A retention schedule for documents other than those specific to the work of higher education is found in the New York State Policy: New York State General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State Government Records (Appendix B).


Record: An official document that possess all of the following three elements:

  • Documentary material in any physical form, including, but not limited to, reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes.
  • Transmitted or stored by a campus, and kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature.
  • Has legal or operational, or historical value.

Record Custodian:  The office or person who has been deemed as the official keeper for that particular type of record. In some situations, the “custodian” may not have full authorization to amend or delete a record. In those situations, that authority is designated in these procedures or on the SUNY Empire Retention Schedule (Appendix C).


SUNY Empire State University (the University) requires retention of records, regardless of format, for specific periods of time in accordance with SUNY Policy #6609, Records Retention and Disposition, and federal, state, and other legal and institutional requirements. The University is committed to effective and consistent record management that:

  • maintains the privacy and security of institutional and constituent information.
  • ensures records are retained for the required duration set by the governing laws and policies.
  • preserves records of historical value.
  • requires disposal of outdated and unnecessary records in a manner appropriate for the format.

No records should be retained past the retention period unless they still serve a documented legal, operational or historic value to the institution based on one of the following justifications;

  • Discovery: The records are the subject of a litigation discovery request.
  • FOIL/ Information Request: The records are the subject of a current, ongoing FOIL or information request that has not yet been resolved or closed.
  • Legal Hold: The records are the subject of a legal hold, because a SUNY Counsel member has determined, in accordance with the SUNY Legal Proceeding Preparation (E-Discovery) Procedure Doc. No. 6610 (Appendix D) that the records may have relevance in a future litigation.
  • Historic: The records could be considered historic at some point in the future. The SUNY schedule accounts for this history, as many high-level administration records of the campus are permanent. However, there will be circumstances where records may not have originated from the administration, but may still be historically relevant to the SUNY institution.
  • Operational Value and Need: The SUNY office has determined that the records serve a necessary operational value to the office, and that the operational value outweighs the risks that come with holding onto the records.

The University will designate one University-wide Records Management Officer who has responsibility to maintain an inventory of records that have been disposed. Any department considering maintaining records beyond their scheduled length of time shall consult with the Records Management Officer to discuss the reasons for retaining the records and document their reasoning. Generally accepted extension to a schedule length will be documented on the SUNY Empire Retention Schedule. Extensions to records held in the Learning Management System(LMS), are accepted using the procedures listed in this policy.

Only an office or person who is the official custodian of a record has an obligation, legal or otherwise, to retain the record. If an office, or an employee, is not considered the official custodian of a particular category of records, they shall not retain the record. Maintaining records that are not the responsibility of the office or person causes redundant sets of records and confusion about which sets of records are accurate and complete.

SUNY Empire State Record Retention Schedule (SUNY Empire schedule) is the most accurate recording of documents across the University that are considered official University records, how long they should be retained for, and who the record custodian is. The SUNY Empire schedule is a living document, it is updated as ambiguity in the State and SUNY schedules are identified.

Record custodians should first look to the SUNY Empire schedule when determining how to manage a record. If the record is not listed there, the SUNY schedule should be referenced to see if the record is covered into one of the subject-matter schedules. If the SUNY Schedule does not cover a particular record, the custodian shall defer to the General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State Government Records. As a general rule, the SUNY records schedules outline education records, and other records specific to higher education.

Record Custodians

The University will designate custodians of each type of record as well as a Records Manager to oversee the general retention program at the University. The Records Manger will communicate the importance of following the records retention schedules through periodic training and office outreach and ensure that all employees understand the importance of adhering to the SUNY Schedule.

When determining if a record should be retained and for how long, the record custodian should first be identified. If the person with the record is not the record custodian, the record holder should contact the custodian to verify the custodian has a copy of the record. If a copy is already being retained by the custodian, the record holder should dispose of the record properly.

When any employee leaves the University for any reason it is their responsibility to place all University records in control of the University. Faculty members and instructors can find information specific to student records on Appendix G.

Record Custodians with Limited Access to the Records

Records stored in the LMS, PLA Planner and DP Planner, have limited access by employees other than those in Information Technology Services. In the SUNY Empire schedule, ITS will be listed as the record custodian, however, amendments and/or deletions of records and archives will be done with authorization by the provost or the provost’s designee.

 Records in the Learning Management System

LMS archive file represents the complete backup (database records and file attachments) of the unique course section for the term it is offered.  LMS archive files are permanently deleted (meaning non-recoverable) by ITS, with authorization from the provost or provost designee, seven years from the closing date of the term that the course section was offered.  Any request for an LMS archive file to be retained longer than the seven-year timeframe, must have written authorization from the designated leadership authority from the Office of Academic Affairs and ITS.


Many records contain confidential and/or regulated private data protected by federal, state, and local regulations. Such data is defined and classified in the Universitys Enterprise Data Classification Policy.  In addition to the statutory requirements, confidential records and regulated private data must be handled in accordance with the University’s privacy and information security policies.

Preservation of Records Relevant to Legal Matters

Disposal of records (regardless of format) relevant to pending or anticipated litigation, claim, audit, agency charge, investigation, or enforcement action must be suspended until final resolution of the matter. Employees who become aware that an investigation or legal proceeding has commenced or is anticipated, must preserve all records with potential relevance.


Destruction of paper records can occur only upon approval by State Archives. Most records in the SUNY Schedule have been pre-authorized for replacement such that paper records which have been scanned or otherwise converted may be destroyed prior to the end of their retention period. If not pre-authorized, approval requests shall be made by the SUNY Records Management Officer upon request. If individuals intending to replace paper records with electronic or imaged copies are required to ensure that:

  • the images will accurately and completely reproduce all the information in the records being imaged;
  • the imaged records will not be rendered unusable due to changing or proprietary technology before their retention and preservation requirements are met;
  • the imaging system will not permit additions, deletions, or changes to the images without leaving a record of such additions, deletions, or changes; and
  • designees of the State University of New York will be able to authenticate the imaged records by competent testimony or affidavit which shall include the manner or method by which tampering or degradation of the reproduction is prevented.

After proper digitization, the approved paper records shall be disposed of in the proper manner.

Email (and Instant Message)

Retention periods are tied to the information in a record, not the medium on which it is stored. Emails are one medium in which a record is stored and are subject to the same retention schedule as any other medium. The content of the email will determine what, if any, type (classification) of records the email falls under. Emails that fall into specific categories of records on the two records schedules should be kept in accordance with the corresponding schedule item. Emails that do not fall into a category of records identified on either the SUNY schedule or the State schedule are likely not records, and should be deleted permanently unless they serve an important operational value to the employee or are subject to a legal hold. Any email, or instant message thread, that is kept is subject to a FOIL request or e-Discovery. When a public request for information occurs, the more documents/records/data the University has to sort through, the more expensive and disruptive the request will be to the normal operation of a campus. If an email or instant message is unnecessary, it should be permanently deleted. More information on email records can be found in the SUNY Email Retention Guidance (Appendix E).

Destroying Records

Any record that is past the retention period or is a duplicate should be destroyed. Records containing confidential or sensitive information must be shredded. Any records that are not confidential can be recycled. Digital records should be permanently deleted. It is the responsibility of ITS to initiate the destruction of records in the LMS. Authorization of destruction is given by the provost or the provosts designee as stated above. Any record that is being held short of the retention period requires authorization from the State Archives to do so. This process is facilitated through the SUNY System-wide Records Management Officer to State Archives. Any individual wishing to make these requests at SUNY Empire should contact the Records Manager. The Records Manager will facilitate the request with the SUNY System-wide Records Management Officer.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Section 57.05 of the NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law

SUNY Records Retention and Disposition Policy 6609 (Appendix A)

New York State Policy: New York State General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State Government Records (Appendix B)

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices


Anyone who would like to add to the SUNY Empire schedule should contact the college records manager.  

The record retention webpage  has information regarding SUNY Empire record retention. The page has user friendly versions of the SUNY Empire schedule and fact sheets for targeted audiences.

Related References

Empire State College Enterprise Data Classification Policy #100.018

Policy and Procedures for Degree Program and Portfolio Review and Approval # 100.140

Comprehensive Transcript Policy for Undergraduates #100.004



Appendix A SUNY Record Retention Policy (PDF 94kB) (Appendix A)

New York State Policy: New York State General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State (PDF 853kB)(Appendix B)

SUNY Empire Record Retention Schedule (file 65kB)(Appendix C)

SUNY Legal Proceeding Preparation (E-Discovery) Procedure Doc. No. 6610 (PDF 120kB)(Appendix D) 

Records Retention and Disposition at SUNY Campuses, Guidance Document (PDF 1,951kB)(Appendix E)

SUNY Email Retention Guidance (PDF 658kB)Appendix F)

Retention of Student Portfolios and Other Student Records Held by Faculty and Instructors (file 17kB)(Appendix G)