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Email Record Guidelines

An email message constitutes an official record only when the document is made or received in connection with the transaction of University business. An email that provides evidence of a department's activities, events, or business transactions for operational, legal, regulatory, and/or historical purposes is most likely a record. (See What Is a Record? for additional information on determining if a message is a record.) Examples of records may include:

  • When it records official decisions 
  • When it records or communicates discussions about policies, programs and program delivery 
  • When it contains background information used to develop other University documents such as studies, reports or position papers
  • When it documents a business transaction
  • It proves a business-related event or activity did or did not occur
  • When you need to identify who participated in a business activity or had knowledge of an event
  • When it has business, operational, legal, regulatory, or historic value to the University
  • When it has legal or compliance value
  • When it could help resolve a dispute in the future
Ask Yourself These Questions:
  • Do you need the email to document a business activity or transaction?
  • Do you need the email to prove a business-related event or activity did or did not occur?
  • Do you need the email to identify who participated in a business activity or had knowledge of an event?
  • Does the email have legal or compliance value?
  • Do you need the email to support facts you claim to be true, since the person with the direct knowledge of the facts is not available?
  • Could it help resolve a dispute in the future?
  • Does the law expect that the University will retain it?
  • If it were in paper form, would it be retained?
  • Are you the creator of the email?
  • Is the information stored in another application or system?  Is this a duplicate record that can be destroyed?

Required retention periods typically fall into one of three categories:

Transitory Retention - these, by definition, are non-records and have very little administrative value. They are records of temporary usefulness that are not an integral part of a department's records series, that are not regularly filed in a department's recordkeeping system, and that are required only for a limited period of time for the completion of an action or in preparation of an on-going records series. Transitory records are not essential to the fulfillment of statutory obligations or to the documentation of department functions and need to be deleted or destroyed as soon as they no longer provide administrative value.  

  • Examples: Routine messages, internal meeting notices and reminders, "Out of office" notes, drafts, work group discussions, administrative notices, courtesy copies, other messages that serve to convey information of temporary importance in lieu of oral communication.
  • Retention: Until no longer of administrative value, then destroy.

Intermediate Retention - Email that has more significant administrative, legal and/or fiscal value.

  • Examples: Internal correspondence requesting information, monthly and weekly reports, documents advising supervisors of various events, issues, and status or on-gong projects, correspondence from various individuals, companies, and organizations requesting information, copies of meeting minutes (excluding the official copy of the minutes).
  • Retention: Retain for the appropriate period of time defined in the records retention schedule, and then destroy.

Permanent Retention - Email that has significant administrative, legal and/or fiscal value and are scheduled as permanent.

  • Example: Executive correspondence pertaining to the formulation, planning, implementation, interpretation, modification, or redefinition of programs, services, or projects and the administrative regulations, policies and procedures that govern them; department policies and procedures, which include reports and policy studies; official copy of meeting minutes.
  • Retention: Retain for the appropriate period of time defined in the records retention schedule, and then transfer to Archives.

Non-Records or Redundant, Obsolete or Trivial/Transitory Information (ROT)

Important Note:  All records that pertain to litigation, on-going legal proceedings, or even the anticipated litigation must not be destroyed until you receive permission from general counsel. 

Top 10 Electronic Non-Records (ROT) to Delete or Destroy

  1. Deleted items – Empty deleted items and recycle bins.  If that makes you too nervous, delete all but the last 30 days of deleted items.
  2. Calendar responses in your email – Invitations, acceptances, meeting announcements, meeting agendas, Zoom invitations, and other scheduling notifications.  Your calendar will still contain the relevant information so you can delete the responses received in Outlook.
  3. Published reference material – If you didn’t create the publication, delete it as soon as it is no longer relevant or needed.  This includes notifications from other departments, external sources, magazines, flyers, announcements, etc.  If you created them, make sure a copy of the publication is shared with your campus archivist.
  4. Newsletters/Listservs – Including internal and external newsletters, as long as you didn't create them.  
  5. Formal and informal announcements – System outages, drills, routine IT maintenance work, donuts in the break room, etc.
  6. Duplicates and Drafts– Delete duplicate records that are recorded in multiple systems or locations and drafts (emails and documents) that are no longer needed. 
  7. Folder Clean-up – Delete folders on your shared drive, SharePoint, Google Drive, or Outlook that have met or exceeded their approved retention period. 
  8. Extracted information – reports that are printed from a database that can be recreated as needed.
  9. Personal emails – Anything unrelated to university business
  10. Sent items – Sort your sent items and delete any emails that are not needed.  Sort by date, subject, to, and attachments to make this task simpler.  

Contact Records Management at for any questions or concerns.  

Reviewed 2023-10-20