Destruction

Take home message: It is acceptable to destroy documents provided there is no obligation to preserve them; and in some cases, U-M is obliged to destroy or delete information (including under contracts). If in doubt about whether something can (or should) be destroyed, it is always best to ask University Archives and Records or the Office of the General Counsel for guidance before destroying the document.

U-M Policy and helpful links

  • For information about the circumstances in which records must be retained and/or preserved, see our University Records compliance page and Preservation compliance page.
  • Where there is no obligation to preserve documents, it is generally acceptable to destroy documents. If in doubt , it is always best to ask University Archives and Records or the Office of the General Counsel for guidance before destroying documents – or, for special types of records such as grant files, personnel files etc, contact the offices that manage those records (as outlined on our Preservation page).
  • Sometimes, U-M is obliged to destroy or delete information – for instance, electronic data must be removed from hard drives before selling used U-M computers (this is handled by Property Disposition). Contracts may also require the destruction or return of information, data or objects once a project has been completed. It is important that any such requirements be complied with.
  • When disposing of personal or sensitive information, that information must be properly deleted, shredded or destroyed to ensure that there is no potential breach of privacy. The U-M Privacy Matters website contains practical information about how to securely delete electronic information, how to properly dispose of hard copy documents containing sensitive information, and how to destroy private information that is stored on hardware.

Things to remember

  • The University creates a great deal of historical records which need to be retained for future reference and future generations and made accessible for their historical and administrative value. See the University Archives and Records Program website and our Preservation compliance page for more information.
  • However, the University also creates a lot of records with no enduring historical value, and no legal or fiscal significance. Given the sheer quantity of records that the University creates, it is not only acceptable but desirable to periodically dispose of records that have no value in being retained.
  • If you are in doubt about whether something can (or should) be destroyed, it is always best to ask University Archives and Records or the Office of the General Counsel for guidance before destroying the document.
  • When disposing of records that contain personal, private or sensitive information, be sure to follow the guidance on the Privacy Matters website about how to properly and completely destroy that information, and avoid possible privacy breaches.

People to talk to

For assistance with issues related to the destruction of University Records, contact the University Archives and Records Program by emailing them or calling (734) 764-3482.

For assistance with issues related to the management and disposition of University records, please contact the Records Management Program by emailing them at U-M records.

For assistance with privacy issues, and destroying sensitive information appropriately, you can find contacts on our separate Privacy & Confidentiality page.

An internal Records Management Task Force is currently reviewing University records practices and policies, including retention and destruction of records.  The members of the task force are happy to discuss your unit’s practices or receive questions about records management issues and will post additional resources on their project website as the review continues.


Established 3/4/11, last updated 3/17/17 – Contact us if you believe any information is incorrect or outdated