|Policy Approval Authority
|Office of the President
|Responsible University Office
|Ethics and Compliance Office
|Proposed Adoption Date
|Effective Adoption Date
|Last Review Date
Ethics & Conduct
Governance / Administration
The State of Illinois State Records Act (5 ILCS 160) sets forth guidelines and responsibilities of state agencies for the retention and disposition of records. This policy is designed to provide guidance to the university for the proper management of records (both paper and digital) in order to meet the requirements of the State Records Act and State Records Commission Rules. This policy applies to all employees and volunteers, including but not limited to faculty, civil service employees, supportive professional staff, graduate assistants, student employees, and extra help. The retention requirements approved by the State Records Commission supersede any guidelines provided in university policies.
The following are the definitions of the terms referenced in this policy. Where possible, the definitions provided in the State Statute and Rules (5 ILCS 160 and JCAR Title 44, Part 4400) are used.
The objective of the Records Management Program is to provide a cohesive approach to effectively manage records. This approach lends itself to close coordination with departments and helps protect university records, reduce liability, preserve historical records, and improve efficiencies. This includes the effective scheduling, retention, retrieval, disposition and safekeeping of all records. This specifically includes:
To oversee and assist with program objectives, the following roles have been defined:
University employees shall secure, maintain, and dispose of records in accordance with the retention schedules as approved by the State Records Commission. If a university employee knowingly, and without lawful justification, destroys or otherwise disposes of a record not in accordance with approved retention schedules, the employee will be subject to university-issued discipline, up to and including suspension or termination, in addition to committing a Class 4 felony according to Section 11 of the State Records Act.
If an employee has questions or concerns about the whether they have the authority to destroy or dispose of a record, the employee should contact the Records Officer.
Employees are required to maintain records, regardless of medium, in an organized and secured manner. Employees should be mindful of other individuals that may have access to records that contain confidential information, such as personally identifiable information, health records, records protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and other types of confidential information.
An employee will not destroy a university record without obtaining an approved records disposal certificate from Secretary of State’s Office. If an employee is permitted to dispose of a record, the employee will ensure that the disposition is done in a manner consistent with the State Records Act, while taking into account the type of information contained within the record. Extra care and precaution should be taken when disposing of confidential information.
Departments will ensure their respective area(s) have current record retention schedules. If a department does not have a retention schedule for an area(s) or the current schedule needs revision, it is their responsibility to consult with the Records Officer develop or update the retention schedules.
Departments are responsible for following record retention schedules and for disposing of records in a timely manner.
Departments will designate one individual as a Records Liaison. The role of the Records Liaison is defined within the Records Management Program Overview section.
Departments will ensure that records are kept in a designated area, such as filing cabinets, storage rooms, or electronic mediums. Departments should be mindful of those who have access to those areas/electronic mediums.
The Records Officer will maintain the original copy of all approved record retention schedules and make the schedules available to departments and employees in an accessible format.
The Records Officer will be available to departments in the creation, addition or revision of records inventories and record retention schedules, and for trainings about record management.
The Records Officer communicate with the State Records Commission to approve record retention reschedules and disposal certificates. The Records Officer will inform the appropriate department and Records Liaison about the approvals of schedules and disposal certificates.
The Records Officer will develop and maintain procedures for developing record schedules and disposal certificates. These procedures will be available in an accessible format. The Records Officer will ensure that this policy and associated procedures are in compliance with the State Records Act and State Records Commission Rules.
Identifying university records is the first step in developing and maintaining a records system. A university record includes all the following:
All university records are scheduled for disposal through the Records Officer. The Records Officer will communicate with the State Records Commission, which will collaboratively determine the administrative, legal, fiscal and historical value of all records.
Items not included within the definition of records, defined as “non-record materials,” may be destroyed at any time by the department in possession of such material without the prior approval of the State Records Commission. The State Records Commission may, however, issue advisory procedures to guide in the disposition of non-record materials (State Records Act Sec. 20, 43.23).
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140), all physical and electronic materials received or generated by Northern Illinois University which pertain to the transaction of public business are “public records,” available for public inspection unless specifically exempted by law. However, only those “public records” which are also University Records must be managed according to the requirements put forth by the Illinois State Records Act. Although they may still be “public records” under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, non-record materials are not subject to the management and disposal requirements of the State Records Act and, therefore, greater flexibility exists for their management in support of efficient business processes. Because most materials at the University are non-record materials, efficient use of resources and compliance with State law necessitate a clear distinction between university records and non-record materials.
Non-record materials, as compared to university records, do not require State approval prior to their disposal. Most non-record materials should be disposed of as soon as possible after their primary usefulness has expired. Whenever there is doubt that certain items are non-record materials, the items should be considered record materials until their status is determined. Please consult with the Records Officer about whether an item is a record or non-record.
An electronic record is a record generated, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means in various storage media. Both born-digital records and digital surrogates of analog records are considered electronic records. Databases or components of databases may or may not be considered records, depending upon their function and contents. University retention schedules apply to all records based upon function and content of the record, not its format (i.e. media neutral).
The management of electronic records follows many of the same principles used to manage traditional records to ensure compliance with the State Records Commission, but have additional considerations including but not limited to the preservation and creation of metadata, keeping backup copies, and choosing appropriate formats for long term storage. In addition, records/information that is maintained, used, or in the possession of the university may be a public record subject to FOIA even if it is not state record under the State Records Act.
All electronic records contain university data. That data is classified according to the Information Security Policy, and/or state and federal regulations. All faculty, staff, and third-party agents are required to be aware of the data classification for which they have access to, or oversight of, and to apply appropriate and pre-determined safeguards and comply with all university policy and/or State and Federal Regulations.
Digitizing records is the process of creating a digital surrogate from an analog, or a paper record, for a variety of business reasons including ease of use, ease of access, efficiency, analytics, and retention. The integrity and authenticity of the analog records shall be preserved through the digitization process so that the images or surrogates will be authentic copies of the analog records. They must serve the purposes for which the original records were created or maintained, and the copies must contain all significant record detail needed for probable future reference. Analog records may be destroyed in favor of digital surrogates so long as the digital surrogates are produced in compliance with the State Records Commission Rules, found at 44 Illinois Administrative Code 4400.70 — Digital Reproduction.
For NIU, the scanning of paper documents into OnBase creates digital copies of the record, but these may not be considered digital surrogates unless created in compliance with Section 4400.70. Questions about whether a scanned document constitutes a digital surrogate should be directed to the Records Officer, who will consult with the Advisory Committee.
All university records stored in the University Business Archives will be managed in accordance with the Retention Schedule approved by the university and the State Records Commission. These records will not be destroyed without written consent from the State Records Commission. University departments are required to maintain an inventory of records sent to University Business Archives and request disposal certificates at the appropriate time. University Business Archives will not request record disposal certificates on behalf of the department as University Business Archives is for storage purposes only.
Some retention schedules require a review of records or transmission of records to the University Archives for retention or prior to disposition. Archives retains and makes available for research, in accordance with legislation protecting the privacy of individuals, the non-current records of the University which have historical, legal, or intrinsic value that typically has a permanent retention period. Although most retention schedules will indicate record groups destined for the Archives, the University Archivist can denote any additional records considered essential for permanent preservation. In addition to administrative records, Archives also is interested in departmental papers and the papers of individual faculty members making significant contributions to the University or to their academic specialties.
Persons in violation of this policy may be subject to a range of disciplinary action (determined and enforced by NIU management), including but not limited to the loss of computer network access privileges, disciplinary action, dismissal from the university, and legal action. Issues where there is concern that negligence or non-compliance has occurred should be brought to the appropriate AVP of the department and/or Records Officer. In cases when an employee knowingly, and without lawful authority, alters, destroys, defaces, removes or cancels a University record may be referred to the NIU Department of Police and Public Safety or other external authorities and may result in further civil or criminal proceedings.