Records Management

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University Policy Number 1102


Responsible Office:

Policy Procedure:

  • Detailed procedures on records management, retention, and disposal are available from George Mason University’s Agency Records Manager, Special Collections and Archives, GMU Libraries, Fenwick Library.  Additional information can be found at the Records Management website, as follows:

Related Law & Policy:


This policy applies to all records generated by all George Mason University offices, departments, and academic units, and to the management of all such records. This policy supersedes Administrative Policy Number 23 of March 3, 1993.



The Virginia Public Records Act (State Code of Virginia, Chapter 7, §42.1-85.) stipulates that the “Librarian of Virginia shall administer a records management program for the application of efficient and economical management methods to the creation, utilization, maintenance, retention, preservation, and disposal of public records…. It shall be the duty of the Librarian of Virginia to establish procedures and techniques for the effective management of public records, to make continuing surveys of paper work operations, and to recommend improvements in current records management practices, including the use of space, equipment, and supplies employed in creating, maintaining and servicing records.”

“It shall be the duty of any agency with public records to cooperate with the Librarian of Virginia in conducting surveys and to establish and maintain an active, continuing program for the economical and efficient management of the records of such agency.”

As a state agency that complies with the Virginia Public Records Act, George Mason University:

1. Cooperates with the Librarian of Virginia in conducting surveys of public records;

2. Maintains an active, continuing Records Management Program for the economical and efficient management of the records of the university;

3. Has a designated records officer who “serves as a liaison to the Library of Virginia for the purposes of implementing and overseeing a records management program, and coordinating legal disposition, including destruction of obsolete records;” and

4. Operates a Records Center where temporary inactive university paper records can be stored until disposal.



Records management is the economical and efficient administrative process for managing information throughout its life cycle: from creation to its final designated disposition (destruction or preservation).  It also is a process of maintaining information in a format that allows for its timely access.

University records are any document or group of documents related to a specific subject or transaction created or accumulated during the course of public or university business.  Record content, not its medium, determines whether a record constitutes a public record.  Records may be in a variety of formats, including paper, email, databases, microfilm, other electronic media, websites, photographic, audio, motion picture, or video recordings.  Retention schedules are applied regardless of format.

Vital records are records absolutely needed to conduct business or to reconstitute an agency, organization, office, or unit (during or after an emergency), or to preserve the rights of the state or its citizens.  Vital records considerations are part of an agency’s records disaster prevention and recovery program.  Although vital records are subject to records management regulations, vital records are not eligible for transfer to the George Mason University Records Center until they have become inactive.

Temporary inactive records are records that no longer are needed for daily operations, but that must be retained for a defined period of time in accordance with state records retention guidelines.

The George Mason University Records Center is the facility used for low cost, temporary storage of inactive, non-permanent university records during the required retention period until properly documented disposal.

A retention schedule is an approved timetable stating the retention and disposition of specific public records.

A general schedule is a retention and disposition schedule that applies to records that state agencies or localities have in common.  The Library of Virginia creates all General Schedules for Virginia State Agencies.  General Schedule 111 is the schedule for records of state universities and colleges in the Commonwealth of Virginia. George Mason University adheres to this schedule.

Additional definitions are available at the GMU Records Management website.



A. University

In accordance with Commonwealth laws and regulations, George Mason University supports and cooperates with state Records Management guidelines developed by the Records Management and Imaging Services Division of the Library of Virginia for statewide use.

B. University Employees

All George Mason University employees must comply with the retention and disposition schedules established by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

C. Records Management Office

The University Records Manager is the officially designated Records Management Officer for George Mason University.  In accordance with the Virginia Public Records Act of the Code of Virginia (§42.1-76 et seq.), the Records Manager’s responsibilities include:

1. Implementing the University Records Management Program in keeping with Records Management policies and procedures established by the Records Management and Imaging Services Division of the Library of Virginia.

2. Managing and operating the University Records Center.

3. Providing guidance and training regarding paper and electronic Records Management procedures, policies, and use of appropriate forms, as necessary, and working with departmental records coordinators in maintaining the University Records Management Program.

4. Disseminating information regarding General Retention and Disposition Schedules to members of the university community and assisting in surveying records that are unique to George Mason University in order to compile and implement accurate and current records retention and disposition schedules.

5. Assisting in identifying records that can be destroyed in accordance with retention guidelines, and approving the accurate and timely destruction of records by completing or reviewing the Certificate of Records Destruction (RM-3) forms, pursuant to Library of Virginia policy and procedures for the destruction of records.  Certificate of Records Destruction forms must be completed for both paper and electronic records.

6. Identifying vital, inactive, and permanent records, and ensuring that records are properly maintained, protected, and accessible for the length of time cited in applicable records retention and disposition schedules.

7. Participating in decisions concerning the reformatting and storage of records, and coordinating and approving the transfer of records to archival or temporary storage at the Library of Virginia.

8. Assisting as necessary in the preparation for and protection of university records in the event of a disaster.

D. Department, Academic Unit, School, or Office (to be referred to as “Department”)

1. As needed, appoint departmental records coordinators to coordinate with the University Records Manager regarding departmental records.

2. Are primarily responsible for the maintenance and retention of their records during active use, during which time the records are defined as vital records.

3. After paper records become inactive, have the option of transferring records to the University Records Center.  It is the department’s responsibility to initiate transfer if they choose to use this service.  Departments have the option of retaining inactive paper records internally and should consult with the University Records Manager about this option.

4. Departments must keep electronic records internally and should consult the University Records Manager about retention and proper disposal of electronic records.  Electronic records should be stored in a safe and secure location with only select personnel allowed access to the records.

5. After department records stored at the University Records Center are eligible for disposal, the University Records Manager will contact the department representative to obtain the signature of a departmental representative on the Certificate of Records Destruction (RM-3) form.  The department representative is responsible for verifying that there is no audit, investigation, or legal action pending or anticipated on the records and that the records have not otherwise been reactivated.  If there is no action that would prohibit records disposal, the department representative should sign the Certificate of Records Destruction (RM-3) form in a timely fashion.



Commonwealth requirements stipulate that records with archival value must be retained permanently.  A listing of records considered by the Commonwealth to be permanent is available at  Permanent records can be transferred to the George Mason University Archives in the Special Collections & Archives Department in Fenwick Library.



In recent years George Mason University has seen a surge in its public records being created and retained in electronic format.  An electronic record is a record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means.  Electronic record formats include, but are not limited to, word processing files, spreadsheets, e-mails, instant messages, websites, databases, and scanned images, as well as multimedia files that may include audio, graphics, video, and animation.

The University Records Manager works closely with information technology professionals throughout the university to ensure proper retention and disposition of electronic records.  It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure his or her electronic records are retained according to Commonwealth of Virginia retention and disposition schedules.



Retaining university records longer than the retention schedule authorizes causes unnecessary legal and fiscal liabilities and is strictly forbidden. Conversely, premature disposal of university records carries with it similar liabilities and is also strictly forbidden.  No records may be destroyed without proper completion of Commonwealth Certificate of Records Destruction (RM-3) forms.

According to the Conditions for Records Retention and Disposition section of all Commonwealth General Schedules, custodians of records must ensure that information in confidential or privacy-protected records is protected from unauthorized disclosure through the ultimate destruction of the information.  Normally, destruction of confidential or privacy-protected records will be done by shredding or pulping.  “Deletion” of confidential or privacy-protected information in computer files or other electronic storage media is not acceptable.  Electronic records must be “wiped” clean or the storage media physically destroyed.  These methods of destruction are specified so that records may not be viewed or used by unauthorized persons after they are disposed.



This policy is effective July 1, 2002 and was revised on April 7, 2011.  This policy shall be reviewed and revised, if necessary, annually to become effective at the beginning of the University’s fiscal year, unless otherwise noted.  All amendments and additions to this policy shall be reviewed and approved by the Agency Records Manager and the Library of Virginia.




Maurice W. Scherrens

Senior Vice President



Peter N. Stearns



Date approved: September 20, 2002


Revision Approved: April 12, 2011