Records Retention

Records Retention


Office of Administration


Records Management Officer, Director of Compliance





Effective Date:


Implementation History:

First draft Feb. 2018


Records, Retention, Schedule, Information Security

Background Information:

Records that are kept past the required retention period pose a risk to the college. When records retention schedules are followed proactively, they help to avoid risks and preserve resources. Employees have an obligation to properly dispose of records that they are not obligated to retain and/or no longer serve a legal, operational, or historic value. Following records retention schedules and the procedures in this policy supports the college’s enterprise risk management goals. 


In accordance with Section 57.05 of the NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, official records of the state-operated campuses of the State University of New York and SUNY System Administration must be retained and may not be destroyed unless pursuant to applicable records retention schedules. Retention schedules are referenced in two policies that govern record retention that the college must follow. A retention scheduled specific to SUNY institutions is found in the SUNY Records Retention and Disposition Policy 6609 (Appendix A). A retention schedule for documents other than those specific to the work of higher education is found in the New York State Policy: New York State General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State Government Records (Appendix B). 


A “record” possess all of the following three elements:

1. Documentary material in any physical form, including, but not limited to, reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes

2. Transmitted or stored by a campus, and kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature

3. Has legal or operational, or historical value

The records “custodian” is the office or person who has been deemed as the official keeper for that particular type of record.


SUNY Empire State College (the college) requires retention of records, regardless of format, for specific periods of time in accordance with SUNY Policy Records Retention and Disposition 6609 and federal, state, and other legal and institutional requirements. The college is committed to effective and consistent record management that:

  • maintains the privacy and security of institutional and constituent information.
  • ensures records are retained for the required duration set by the governing laws and policies.
  • preserves records of historical value.
  • requires disposal of outdated and unnecessary records in a manner appropriate for the format.

No records should be retained past the retention period unless they still serve a documented legal, operational or historic value to the institution based on one of the following justifications.

1. Discovery: The records are the subject of a litigation discovery request.

2. FOIL/ Information Request: The records are the subject of a current, ongoing FOIL or information request that has not yet been resolved or closed.

3. Legal Hold: The records are the subject of a legal hold, because a SUNY Counsel member has determined, in accordance with the SUNY Legal Proceeding Preparation (E-Discovery) Procedure Doc. No. 6610 (Appendix C)  that the records may have relevance in a future litigation. 

4. Historic: The records could be considered historic at some point in the future. The SUNY schedule accounts for this history, as many high-level administration records of the campus are permanent. However, there will be circumstances where records may not have originated from the administration, but may still be historically relevant to the SUNY institution.

5. Operational Value and Need: The SUNY office has determined that the records serve a necessary operational value to the office, and that the operational value outweighs the risks that come with holding onto the records.

The college will designate one college-wide Records Management Officer who has responsibility to maintain an inventory of records that have been disposed. Any department considering maintaining records beyond their scheduled length of time shall consult with the Records Management Officer to discuss the reasons for retaining the records and document their reasoning.

Only an office or person who is the official custodian of a record has an obligation, legal or otherwise, to retain the information. If an office, or an employee, is not considered the official custodian of a particular category of records, they shall not retain the record. Maintaining records that are not the responsibility of the office causes redundant sets of records and confusion about which sets of records are accurate and complete.


Many records contain confidential and/or regulated private data protected by federal, state, and local regulations. Such data is defined and classified in the colleges Enterprise Data Classification Policy.  In addition to the statutory requirements, confidential records and regulated private data must be handled in accordance with the college’s privacy and information security policies.

Preservation of Records Relevant to Legal Matters

Disposal of records (regardless of format) relevant to pending or anticipated litigation, claim, audit, agency charge, investigation, or enforcement action must be suspended until final resolution of the matter. Employees who become aware that an investigation or legal proceeding has commenced or is anticipated, must preserve all records with potential relevance.


Destruction of paper records can occur only upon approval by State Archives. Most records in the SUNY Schedule have been pre-authorized for replacement such that paper records which have been scanned or otherwise converted may be destroyed prior to the end of their retention period. If not pre-authorized, approval requests shall be made by the SUNY Records Management Officer upon request. Campuses intending to replace paper records with electronic or imaged copies are required to ensure that:

(1) the images will accurately and completely reproduce all the information in the records being imaged;

(2) the imaged records will not be rendered unusable due to changing or proprietary technology before their retention and preservation requirements are met;

(3) the imaging system will not permit additions, deletions, or changes to the images without leaving a record of such additions, deletions, or changes; and

(4) designees of the State University of New York will be able to authenticate the imaged records by competent testimony or affidavit which shall include the manner or method by which tampering or degradation of the reproduction is prevented.

After proper digitization, the approved paper records shall be disposed of in the proper manner.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Section 57.05 of the NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law

SUNY Records Retention and Disposition Policy 6609 (Appendix A)

New York State Policy: New York State General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State Government Records (Appendix B)

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices


Record Retention:

In depth guidance for record retention can be found in the guidance document Records Retention and Disposition at SUNY Campuses (Appendix D). Further guidance specific to Empire State College can be found in the following college documents:

Retention and Disposal of Portfolio Contents Procedure

Retention of Student Academic Records at Centers Policy

Retention of Student Financial Records at Centers Procedures

The college will designate custodians of each type of record as well as a Records Manager to oversee the general retention program at the college. The Records Manger will communicate the importance of following the records retention schedules through periodic training and office outreach and ensure that all employees understand the importance of adhering to the SUNY Schedule.

When determining if a record should be retained and for how long, the record custodian should first be identified. If the person with the record is not the record custodian, the record holder should contact the custodian to verify the custodian has a copy of the record. If a copy is already being retained by the custodian, the record holder should dispose of the record properly.

Record custodians should first look to the SUNY schedules to see if the record is covered into one of the subject-matter schedules. If the SUNY Schedule does not cover a particular record, the custodian shall defer to the General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York State Government Records. As a general rule, the SUNY records schedules outline education records, and other records specific to higher education.

Email (and Instant Message) Retention:

Retention periods are tied to the information in a record, not the medium on which it is stored. Emails are one medium in which a record is stored and are subject to the same retention schedule as any other medium. The content of the email will determine what, if any, type (classification) of records the email falls under. Emails that fall into specific categories of records on the two records schedules should be kept in accordance with the corresponding schedule item. Emails that do not fall into a category of records identified on either the SUNY schedule or the State schedule are likely not records, and should be deleted permanently unless they serve an important operational value to the employee or are subject to a legal hold. Any email, or instant message thread, that is kept is subject to a FOIL request or e-Discovery. When a public request for information occurs, the more documents/records/data the college has to sort through, the more expensive and disruptive the request will be to the normal operation of a campus. If an email or instant message is unnecessary, it should be permanently deleted. More information on email records can be found in the SUNY Email Retention Guidance (Appendix E).

Destroying Records

Any record that is past the retention period or is a duplicate should be destroyed. Records containing confidential or sensitive information should be shredded according to Empire State College Shredding Documents Policy. Any records that are not confidential can be recycled using the bins available in all common areas. Digital records should be permanently deleted. 

Any record that is being held short of the retention period requires authorization from the State Archives to do so. This process is facilitated through the SUNY System-wide Records Management Officer to State Archives. Campuses wishing to make these requests should contact the SUNY System-wide Records Management Officer.

Related References

Empire State College Enterprise Data Classification Policy #100.018

Retention and Disposal of Portfolio Contents Procedure #300.034

Retention of Student Academic Records at Centers Policy #300.037

Retention of Student Financial Records at Centers Procedures #300.036

Empire State College Shredding Documents Policy #400


SUNY Empire Record Retention Schedule (file 43kB)

SUNY Records Retention Policy (PDF 94kB)

New York State General Schedule (PDF 853kB)

SUNY Legal Proceeding Preparation (E-Discovery) Procedure Doc. No. 6610 (Appendix C) (PDF 120kB)

Records Retention and Disposition at SUNY Campuses, Guidance Document (Appendix D) (PDF 1,951kB)

SUNY Email Retention Guidance (Appendix E). (PDF 658kB).