Disposing of Records

How Do I Dispose of Records? 

Records disposition is the final phase in a record's lifecycle. It normally involves two possibilities: destruction or transfer to the University Archives for preservation. On rare occasions, the disposition may be to transfer to another State or Federal agency. The disposition of a records series is noted on the records schedule (RDA). See the "Records Schedules" section for information on preparing an RDA. 

NOTE: It is the department's responsibility to obtain the proper authorization prior to proceeding with disposition; that means having an approved records schedule (RDA) on file with the Wisconsin Public Records Board. The Archives cannot provide verbal approval for the disposition of University records. 

Disposition of records should occur routinely in accordance with the provisions of the RDA. If the RDA states the records are to be retained 3 years from the date of the record and then destroyed, records disposal should occur promptly at the conclusion of the 3 year retention regardless of format. This ensures that file space will be used efficiently and lessens the possibility that active records which are needed for day-to-day operations do not become interfiled with records which have outlived their administrative usefulness. IMPORTANT: These policies apply to electronic records as well

Guidelines for Best Practices

In 2007, a UW-Madison campus committee comprised of members from Legal Services, Purchasing, Surplus with a Purpose (SWAP), and Records Management developed the document Guidelines for University Departments Concerning Best Practices for the Disposal and Destruction of Recordslink. This publication offers useful guiding principles for the proper disposal of University records in all formats.

EXCEPTION for Litigation, Audit, and Open Records Requests

If a request for information has been filed on the records under the open records law or the records are involved in litigation or audit, physical destruction may NOT be carried out until all legal or audit action has concluded.

Physical Destruction, Non-confidential

When the final disposition of the records is DESTROY, and the records have been retained within your office area, it is appropriate to place the material in your building's recycling or trash receptacles. It is not necessary to notify the Archives or seek further authorization. The approved RDA is your authorization to destroy. If records are stored at the State Records Center, the department will receive a report two times a year requesting authorization to destroy those boxes that have met their retention time. As a general rule, all office paper can be recycled, although there may be some exceptions. Check the UWRF Recycling Guidelines for details.

Physical Destruction, Confidential

When the final disposition is DESTROY CONFIDENTIAL, special precautions must be taken to ensure that the material is securely handled prior to and during the destruction process. Records marked confidential must not be placed in trash receptacles, which would permit access by those not authorized to view the information, nor in containers which would permit the material to be easily scattered, such as boxes or other containers without secure lids. The same precautions that were taken to protect access during the record's active life need to be extended to the inactive period and during the final disposition.


University of Wisconsin-River Falls
410 S. 3rd Street, River Falls WI 54022 USA
Campus Information 715-425-3911