Housekeeping: Records and Files

December
2004
Mark Wade Lieu, Chair

All of us probably have overflowing filing cabinets in our own offices, which makes it even more difficult to deal with the overflowing filing cabinets and shelves dedicated to the records and files of your local senate. Some senates have invested in scanning equipment to digitize all documents to solve the storage problem, but not all senates have the time, money or inclination for such a project. The Academic Senate has received several requests for guidance in how to determine what is necessary to keep and what can be thrown away. While we can offer few hard and fast rules because of the variability in local circumstances, we provide the guidelines below as a starting place for your own senate housekeeping.

DOCUMENTS/RECORDS THAT ARE TWO-YEARS OLD OR LESS
Don't bother cleaning out files less than two years old. These are relatively current, and you have a high likelihood of needing to regularly access these files, whether they are senate resolutions, master plan proposals, or board minutes. The multiple copies you keep may also come in handy as you have extras that you can pull and give away as necessary. This also applies to all electronic communications such as emails and attachments. Set up folders in your email program and on your hard disk that parallel your filing system. This will make it easier to find these electronic records.

MORE THAN TWO YEARS OLD
You should definitely keep at least one copy of these documents:

All senate meeting minutes
All versions of senate by-laws, policies, constitutions, resolutions
Final versions of college planning documents
Final versions of grant applications
Reports that required the senate president's signature
Reports from committees, including committee membership lists
Any other documents that provide a history of the actions of your local senate
Accreditation reports - full and mid-cycle You can probably throw away:
Copies of materials from presentations to the senate from outside groups
District or College Budget reports (you may want to keep copies of final 311 reports for multiple years if you are trying to track district spending patterns)
Materials from local governing board meetings (they should be keeping copies of all of this for you to access should you need them)
Materials from your bargaining agent (they should be keeping their own records as well)
Duplicate copies of any senate documents
Interim drafts of planning documents

A SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT ELECTRONIC RECORDS AND COMMUNICATIONS
While it is doubtful that you will need electronic records and communications more than two years old, since archiving electronic records and communications require little room, it seems reasonably convenient to burn all old electronic records and communications onto a CD before clearing out your hard disk. Since some old emails may well contain sensitive and private communications, do not pass these on to your successor or another individual. File the CD(s) in your own files and label them with the time frame. When you are sure these files are of no further possible value, either shred the CD (you need a heavy duty shredder for this purpose) or scour the CD with a sharp implement so that it is no longer readable before disposing of it.

MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS OLD
This is an arbitrary number which we have used simply because it is the number of years that the IRS requires you to keep personal financial records in case of an audit.

By this time, documents begin to gain a historical rather than retain a practical value. After seven years, you can probably safely dispose of these previously retained documents:

Final versions of grant applications
Reports from committees, including committee membership lists
Reports that required the senate president's signature

It is assumed that you have a separate curriculum office or a separate filing of documents related to course approvals, program approvals, etc.

In closing, we emphasize that these are simply guidelines for you to adapt to your local circumstances (including, of course, your local capacity for document storage). We wish you happy housecleaning and ask you to remember to recycle.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.