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Destroying and disposition of university records

When you are destroying records, follow the Records Classification and Retention Schedule (RCRS). Records become eligible for disposition when the retention period has expired. The retention period starts counting after the retention trigger occurs.

The RCRS also specifies a method of disposition. That method is usually "destruction" or "secure destruction", but check before destroying records. 

To determine what records series apply, please see Completing the Inventory and Classification form.

Complete a Disposition Authorization Form before destroying university records. The form is required under the Records Disposition Procedure.

Completing the Disposition Authorization Form

Section a of disposition form

Complete Section A of the Disposition Authorization Form, including all eligible records. Each row on the form should contain a single Records Series. A Records Series may refer to multiple files by indicating a range of files (e.g. “Student files with last names A to E with retention triggers prior to 2012” or “Accounts payable, April 2008-March 2009”). 

If necessary, include a more detailed list with the form. The list can include specific file names and trigger dates. 

Indicate the volume of records to undergo disposition.

To help determine which records are eligible, see Are my records eligible for disposition.

Review of DIsposition Form

Send the Disposition Authorization Form and any supplementary worksheets or reports to The Office of the General Counsel will review the eligible records. We will check the records for:

  • Litigation holds
  • Legal issues or potential issues
  • Access to information requests.

Any records on litigation hold must be removed from the Disposition Authorization Form.

Obtain Authorization

section c of disposition form

Send the Disposition Authorization Form to the disposition authority for review and approval. They must decide if there is an unexpected operational or audit need to retain the records. If so, they may authorize an operational hold. Then the records can be retained past the retention period. 

Any records on operational hold must be removed from the Disposition Authorization Form. Separate records under hold to ensure they do not undergo disposition. Then the disposition authority will fill out Section C. 

Dispose of Records

Section d of disposition form

Once disposition is authorized on the Disposition Authorization Form, disposition can begin. The method of disposition is listed in the RCRS and is usually secure destruction. 

For the purposes of this guide, shredding will be used to destroy the records. Records must remain confidential throughout shredding. Some methods of shredding include: 

  • By staff with in-house shredders
  • Using a confidential shredding bin
  • Or by arranging for a pick up with a shredding service provider. 

Someone must witness either shredding or removal for shredding.

After destruction, fill out section D with the date of shredding or date of pick up for shredding. If a third party shreds records, get a certificate of destruction to certify that the records were destroyed.

Send form for retention

Make sure Section D of the disposition authorization form is complete. That section confirms disposition was done. The Office of the University Secretary will retain the proof of disposition. Please forward the:

  • Completed Disposition Authorization Form
  • Supplementary list of records (if applicable)
  • Certificate of Destruction
  • Transfer Receipt


Frequently Asked Questions about disposition

  • What is disposition?

    Disposition means the last action taken on a record at the end of its retention period. Usually this means destroying the records, but not always. Other possible methods include transfer to a third party (e.g. OSAP) or transfer to the university Archives.

  • What is the difference between transitory and university records?

    University records have long-term value to the university. They are identified in the Records Classification and Retention Schedule. Transitory records are only useful short-term and may be exact copies of university records. For more information please see Distinguishing between transitory and university records.

  • When can I destroy transitory records?

    Transitory records may be destroyed as soon as their useful life has ended. When destroying transitory records, it is not necessary to maintain a record of destruction. Transitory records containing personal information need secure destruction.

  • Who decides when the useful life of a transitory record has ended?

    You do. Unless your unit has set up local guidance for certain types of transitory records, destruction of transitory records is a matter of individual discretion. Transitory records may be needed to follow up on the completion of an action, to prepare another record, or for reference purposes. Once you determine that those needs are met, you are free to destroy the record.

  • When can I dispose of university records?

    University records become eligible for disposition at the end of their retention period. The retention period does not start counting down until the retention trigger event has occurred. Responsible units must assess their records to find any eligible records at least once a year. We recommend establishing a consistent time each year to do so.

  • How should I dispose of university records?

    You will find approved methods for how to dispose of university Records in the RCRS. Disposition methods may include:

    • Destruction (shredding, deletion)
    • Secure destruction (cross-cut shredding, pulping, incineration)
    • Transfer to a third-party
    • Transfer to the university Archives for preservation

    You can either do shredding with in-office equipment, or use a third-party shredding service. A shredding service should be able to provide you with a certificate of destruction, which may be part of the invoice.

  • How do I calculate which records are eligible?

    Each records series will have an eligibility threshold. Start at the beginning of the current year. Subtract the retention period for the records series. In 2016, for a records series with a two year retention period, any records with a trigger date before January 1st 2014 are eligible. Add them to the list of eligible records. The trigger date is the date the trigger happened, whether that is a specific event or the end of the year.

  • What is a records hold?

    The Records Management Policy allows disposition of records to be suspended when necessary. The record authority can issue a written records hold for operational or audit reasons. The General Counsel can issue a written records hold if there is pending litigation or claims.

    All responsible units should be informed about a records hold affecting their records. Records involved should be separated from eligible records to avoid accidental disposition. A records hold applies to both university and transitory records.

  • What detail should be included in the list of eligible records?

    At a minimum, the list should include records series code, date range, trigger date(s) and a brief description if necessary. A list generated by a records system that contains more detail is also acceptable.

  • Who can authorize records disposition?

    The record authority for a given records series, or their delegate, known as the disposition authority. If the record authority or disposition authority determine there is an unanticipated operational or audit need for eligible records, the record authority can issue a records hold. If so, any records subject to the records hold must be removed from the list. A new list of eligible records must be issued for approval. Records on records hold should be segregated from eligible records to avoid accidental disposition.

  • What is a certificate of destruction and why do I need it?

    A certificate of destruction is required by law for certain types of records. It includes:

    • Company name (if performed by a third party)
    • A unique serialized transaction number
    • The transfer of custody
    • A reference to the terms and conditions
    • The acceptance of fiduciary responsibility
    • The date and time the information ceased to exist
    • The location of the destruction
    • The witness to the destruction
    • The method of destruction
    • A reference to compliance with the contract (if employing a secure destruction service provider)
    • Signature.

Do you have any questions about disposing of records or how long your records must be retained? Please contact