No record is forever, at least in terms of Records Management. Very few records are retained beyond 15 years, and most retention periods are much shorter. Some records process into the College Archives (in Rauner Special Collections Library) for permanent historical retention, but most eventually end up being recycled, shredded, or in the case of digital records, securely deleted. As discussed in the Retention section, this entire disposition process is governed by the Retention Schedule, negotiated between the Records Custodian, the Records Manager, and the Records Management Policy Committee. (See The Scheduling Process for more information.)
Upon cataloging, each box of physical records is assigned a disposition date. Digital record disposition dates are calculated based on metadata when they are ingested into the system. These dates are calculated automatically by adding the retention period for that series or file plan node to the last date of the material. For instance, a record with a last date of 6/30/2005, and a five year retention period, would be disposed on 6/30/2010.
|NOTE: Retention periods and disposition dates are not calculated using the date the material is transferred to Records Management. Most retentions are based upon the actual date of the material itself. In some cases, "event dates" are used to calculate retention, which may be different from the date of the material itself. For instance, a series might have retention calculated on a student's graduation date, even if that record was generated years earlier.|
Twice each year (beginning in July and January) Records Management conducts a round of disposition. In order to be eligible for disposition, a record accession must meet the following criteria:
- It's calculated disposition date is past.
- The retention schedule for that series or file plan has been approved by the Records Custodian, the Records Manager, and the Records Management Policy Committee.
- No holds have been assigned to the accession.
If an accession meets all of these criteria the system will automatically make it eligible for disposition.
|NOTE: As a rule, partial boxes of physical records are not disposed. The entire box is either disposed or retained.|
During each disposition round the Record Custodian will receive an electronic notification that details all material currently eligible for disposition. It will be sent with a return receipt attached, which is returned to Records Management to indicate the Records Custodian has read and been informed of the pending disposition.
|NOTE: A disposition method of "Archives" does not guarantee that the material will be retained in the historical collection of the College. The Archives may elect to dispose of some or all of a particular group of records, if it duplicates existing holdings or is otherwise not suitable for permanent retention. For this reason, no record should process into the Archives until its administrative value is completed.|
Circumstances may demand that a particular record accession must be held beyond it's scheduled disposition. This is normally due to litigation, an audit, or a pending project. Should placing a hold become necessary, the Records Custodian must contact the Records Manager or the Records Analyst either before a scheduled disposition, or before the end of the five day grace period (see note above). The box or boxes can then be placed on a temporary hold, and the Records Custodian will be contacted again at the next scheduled disposition round to review the status of the material.
Records Management asks that material only be placed on hold for valid and specific administrative reasons. It is important from a legal standpoint, should Dartmouth's retention practices ever be challenged, that the institution can document a high level of consistency in applying disposition. If a specific reason cannot be found for holding a particular accession, and the Records Custodian is still not comfortable with the disposition, then that may indicate that the retention period needs to be revisited and extended.
The final step in this process is to update the Records Management computer system to reflect the disposed material. Even though material may process out of the facility, it remains in the data system, flagged as disposed. This means that Records Management can tell you not only what is currently in storage, but also all files which have been disposed. (The exception to this are those records disposed before the digital tracking system was adopted in June of 1994. Box and File data on those records was not retained.)
Methods of disposition.
Not all disposition is created equal, and not all disposition means "destroy." When the Records Custodian receives a notice of impending disposition this may include a variety of disposition method codes. For reference, here is a complete glossary.
Records Management has a commitment to ensure that all possible record material is recycled upon disposition. This includes paper, and digital media. The program works closely with Dartmouth Recycles, as well as third party vendors to ensure that wherever possible all material isis diverted from overcrowded landfills.