Take home message: The University creates many documents and records which need to be retained in compliance with state and federal law, as well as University policy. How long they need to be kept varies, depending on the nature of the record. The University Archives & Records Program (within the Bentley Historical Library) can help you work out what needs to be preserved or retained, and for how long.

U-M Policy and helpful links

  • The Institutional Data Resource Management Policy (SPG 601.12) provides guidance on the stewardship and protection of U-M’s institutional data resources.
  • The University Archives & Records Program, housed at the Bentley Historical Library, maintains records of the University and related materials that are selected, preserved, and made accessible for their enduring historical and administrative value. Each department has a responsibility to identify, transfer, preserve and promote access to such important records.
  • Some records need to be retained to satisfy legal or fiscal requirements. Records center storage is used for semi-active or inactive records that hold no permanent historical value, but which must be retained for a specified number of years to satisfy legal or fiscal requirements – such as business and financial records or closed case files.
  • The Records Policy and Procedure Manual gives guidance for U-M units on how to maintain well-organized files, and what to preserve, including procedures for managing and preserving records in digital form. Standard Practice Guide (SPG) 601.08 requires all U-M units to retain and dispose of University records in accordance with this Manual. Standard Practice Guide (SPG) 601.8-1 provides additional guidance related to the identification, maintenance and preservation of digital records.
  • Financial and business records must be retained and preserved by U-M units in accordance with Standard Practice Guide (SPG) 604.1. As explained in that policy, the required retention period for various types of documents associated with a U-M activity depends upon the source of funds supporting that activity.
  • Grant files associated with external funding sources are administered through the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP) and are maintained through the ORSP’s central files and eventually archived. Internal grant files should be properly archived by the U-M unit administering that grant.
  • Research records and data should be preserved in accordance with any specific regulatory requirements for your area of research (e.g., for controlled substance research there are special record keeping requirements overseen by the University Committee on the Use and Care of Animals (UCUCA)) and for a long enough time (and in a suitable manner) that allows you to defend your research and published results in the future. Holders of research data should also ensure the data is accessible to the University and is managed appropriately (per SPG 601.11 and SPG 601.12). For further advice, see the Office of the General Counsel’s Guidelines for Access to and Use of Research Data, and the Data Sharing Resource Center maintained by the ORSP.
  • Patient and client records, created by any U-M unit in the course of their interaction with a person receiving medical or psychological counselling or treatment, or educational or vocational counselling, must be maintained and protected in accordance with privacy requirements under federal and state law and Regent’s bylaw 14.07. See the Patient/client records section of the Records manual, and our Privacy compliance page for more details.
  • Personnel records for all U-M faculty and staff must be managed, preserved and then destroyed or archived in accordance with the Standard Practice Guide on Personnel Records (SPG 201.46). See the Personnel records section of the Records manual, as well as the personnel records sections of the Faculty Handbook and Staff Handbook.
  • Records for all enrolled students (undergraduate and graduate) should be kept during the period of enrollment plus seven (7) years after their separation from the University (whether through graduation or some other means), to cover the statute of limitations period in which a student could file a lawsuit against the University arising out of their student status. Student transcripts are maintained indefinitely by the Registrar’s Office. For more information about student records, see our Student Records compliance page.
  • Sometimes documentation needs to be preserved for use in litigation – The identification, preservation, production, and management information – both electronic and paper – associated with litigation cases is referred to as the (e)Discovery process. U-M is obligated to make good faith efforts to preserve records that could be relevant to pending legal actions and to potentially retrieve and produce this information in the course of the litigation process.
  • The U-M eDiscovery Guidelines (DM-08) apply to data holders, IT providers, department managers and administrators who receive a litigation hold from OGC to hold, preserve, and produce electronic and other information associated with a given lawsuit or claim.  For a litigation hold, there is no distinction between official or personal files, and the holds applies to hard copy (paper) documentation as well as electronic documents.

Things to remember

  • If you receive a litigation hold from the Office of the General Counsel, make sure you comply with the details of that notice.
  • All employees are responsible for organizing their work-related records so that they are accessible to those others in the University with a legitimate business need to access that information, and so that records of enduring value or legal significance are properly retained and preserved. This is something you should establish with your manager and work team.
  • 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 for more information and guidance.

People to talk to

For assistance with the preservation or archiving of University Records, including help identifying and transferring records for preservation within the University Archives, contact the University Archives and Records Program by emailing them or calling (734) 764-3482.

For assistance relating to litigation holds, contact the Office of the General Counsel.

Established 3/4/11, last updated 7/19/18 – Contact us if you believe any information is incorrect or outdated