Records FAQs

Ohio Revised Code 149.011 (G) "Records" includes any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received by, or coming under the jurisdiction of, any public office of the state or its political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.

Ohio Revised Code 149.011 (G) "Records" includes any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received by, or coming under the jurisdiction of, any public office of the state or its political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.

Ohio Revised Code 149.011 (A) "Public office" includes any state agency, public institution, political subdivision, or any other organized body, office, agency, institution, or entity established by the laws of this state for the exercise of any function of government. If you work for any level of Ohio government, you are a public official.

It is the policy of Bowling Green State University to comply fully with the letter and the spirit of the Ohio Public Records Act. In accordance with this Policy, we shall release a public record to a Requester unless that record meets an exception listed in the Act that would prevent us from making the record publicly available. The exceptions contained in the Act will be narrowly construed by the University. Access the full public records policy.

Any record that does not fall under the exceptions to the public records law ORC 149.43 (A) for confidentiality must be made available at cost in a reasonable period of time. Check with your supervisor to familiarize yourself with records in your office that might be confidential. Either refusing to provide access to a public record or releasing personal information protected by law can result in legal problems for you, your office and the University. Your office should have a policy in place regarding records requests, clearly defining which records are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or ORC 149.43, and which must be made available to the public.

Public records are the property of the public office and the citizens of Ohio and cannot be removed or disposed of without having an approved retention schedule in place and following proper state and federal guidelines. Penalties for unlawful removal or destruction of records can be up to $1,000 per item.

Explicitly designating what is “original” and who is the “holder of the original” should be a part of the policies or rules that are outlined up front. Designation of an official “holder of the original” saves other offices from filling up their storage space with duplicate information.

Records cannot be disposed of except as provided for by law under the guidance of the university records management program.  Each office/department must have an approved records retention schedule before records are destroyed. Every BGSU employee should know how to access their office specific retention schedule or the General Records Retention Schedule.  If there is no retention schedule or if it does not accurately reflect current office work, the University Records Manager can assist you in creating a new schedule.

It is a list of the records in an office including the length of time they must be kept based on state and federal laws, audit procedures and historical value. The Inter-University Council of Ohio’s Records Retention Manual provides guidelines for retention periods. Retention periods range from immediate destruction to permanent retention. The Center for Archival Collections assists offices in identifying the records being created and determining how long they are kept.

The General Records Retention Schedule represents broad categories of records found across many campus units, offices and departments.  If you are unable to locate a record series in the General Records Retention Schedule, and your office does not have a unit-specific schedule or if it is out-of-date, contact the Records Manager.

A frequent worry when dealing with records is that you might need the records some day and can't they be kept longer than specified in the records retention schedule.  This practice is discouraged by the BGSU Records Management Program since it leads to excessive amounts of records taking up valuable office space and potentially opens the University to liability.  If you have a legitimate business reason (for example, a longer than usual professional accreditation cycle) to maintain records longer than what is on the General Records Retention Schedule, contact the Records Manager to arrange for an office-specific records schedule.

No office, under any circumstances, may keep records for a shorter period of time than indicated on the appropriate retention schedule.  The guidelines in the retention schedules represent the minimum legal periods necessary to ensure the University's compliance with various state and federal laws and regulations.       

Assuming the records have all passed their assigned destruction dates, the best way to handle a large volume of records is to use the shredding bins provided by the University's approved shredding vendor.  Shred bins come locked but can be unlocked by the Records Manager if needed for easier disposal of records.  Read more about records destruction.

Once an approved records retention schedule is in place, records which have met their retention can be disposed. The retention schedule itself will dictate how records must be disposed: recycle, shred, or appraised for historical value. Records that are shred must first be listed on a Certificate of Records Disposal, which must be signed by the office administrator and sent to the University Records Manager. The Retention Schedule and the Certificate of Records Disposal are the two documents providing the paper trail necessary to demonstrate compliance with Ohio Law. All shredding must be done through the University's approved shredding vendor.  For information on setting up document shredding, contact the Records Manager.

DVDs, CDs, floppy disks that have passed their destruction dates can be confidentially destroyed by BGSU's Information Technology Services.  Take the materials to 110 Hayes Hall.

Records retention requirements apply regardless of storage media. For example, if the retention requirement was “destroy in five years” for the paper record, the same retention applies to the electronic record (spreadsheet, database, etc.). Know your office data backup routine. What is backed up when? Where are backups maintained? This can be critical in a disaster situation and for knowing when and what needs to be deleted once a retention period has been passed.  There are legal, fiscal and administrative implications for retaining electronic records longer than their required retention period, so they should be managed just as diligently as paper-based records and e-mail.

E-mail is not a record type in a retention schedule, but rather a means of conveying information.  Records can be captured in endless ways - paper, microfilm, cave paintings, and e-mails.  The type of format of the record does not dictate its retention period.  It's all about the content.  

E-mail is a public record when created on university owned software, hardware, or networks, and during the course of business. Most e-mail is transient and can be deleted once it is no longer of administrative value.  However, it is important to treat e-mail as paper correspondence, and retain it according to the General Records Retention Schedule or a unit-specific schedule , and retained until the retention period expires. E-mail can be kept in folders on your hard drive, on the e-mail server, or transferred to a CD or an external drive. It should be organized for ease of retrieval and for efficient disposition. E-mail can be hacked, so nothing considered confidential should be in an e-mail. When the time for disposal comes, make sure you have deleted the outgoing, incoming and any other messages be they on your hard drive, shared drive, or both.

 

The key to effectively dealing with e-mail is to get rid of the non-records and any transient/transitory records that have outlived their administrative/ legal/fiscal value as quickly as possible so that only a small percentage of what is sent and/or received remains that truly needs to be managed on an on-going basis.  The management of e-mail can be approached in a manner similar to how "snail mail" at work and home is processed:

  • Open the e-mail and review the document's content; this may mean thoroughly reading the document, but more often than not, it is possible to judge just by a cursory look at the document, the subject line, and/or the sender.
  • If it is a non-record, the message should be deleted outright, just as someone would dump "snail mail" non-records into the trash can or recycle bin.
  • If the message is a transient/transitory record, then place it in a folder or sub-folder (analog or digital) that is designated for periodic review and dispose of as soon as allowable. Consider creating a "Transient/Transitory" folder or create sub-folders of record type/series or projects for the transient/transitory messages.
  • If it is a record, place it in an appropriate folder by record type/series, project, retention time, or other filing schema that works for the office/organization and allows that unit to effectively manage the life cycle of the record

A large part of making records and information manageable is collecting and maintaining only what is needed in the first place. What does your department need to document? If you don’t need it, don’t create it. Examine the functions that your department supports. The creation of records should support those functions. Any records falling outside the supported functions should be examined to determine how necessary they are. Consult with the Center for Archival Collections. Records and information are critical University assets. Managing them carefully protects University interests, saves money and will assist your department in meeting its mission.

Training is always available to BGSU employees on records management matters from the University Records Manager.

In compliance with Section 149.33 of the Ohio Revised Code, Bowling Green State University, by the authority of its Board of Trustees, has established a Records Management Program under the jurisdiction of the Center for Archival Collections for the purpose of insuring proper scheduling, storage and disposal of university records. Records Retention for Public Colleges and Universities in Ohio: A Manual (Inter-University Council of Ohio, May 2009) will be used as the basis for Bowling Green State University's Records Management Program. This program is designed to reduce the number of non-current records occupying expensive office space, provide records center storage and access outside the office of origin, eliminate unnecessary duplication of records between offices, offer a systematic method of records destruction and ensure that records with permanent archival value are preserved.

Every office and department on campus is faced with problems of storage space, as well as decisions about which records to keep and which to discard. An ongoing Records Management Program will address these problems, provide for a more economical and efficient means of filing and retrieving records, and protect the university against unnecessary litigation.

After personnel costs, record keeping is the largest expenditure of public offices. Record creation, maintenance, filing, office storage space, filing supplies and equipment all contribute to the high cost of keeping records. Certain strategies can greatly reduce these costs. Dispose of records as soon as legally possible. A small percentage of records are permanent, most having a retention period of ten years or less. Store records with low reference activity in low-cost non-office storage space. Good records management makes records keeping easier and more productive. Having fewer files in the office filing system makes individual records retrieval and refiling easier and more efficient.

Records management reduces nuisance litigation by reducing the quantity of records that attorneys may subpoena through the legal process of discovery. Following records retention schedules assures courts, litigants, and auditors that records are being disposed of properly and in a routine manner, not maliciously or in a capricious way.