Washington State University

Revised 7-11
Procedures, Records, and Forms

Retention of Electronic Communications

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Records conveyed electronically are subject to University and departmental retention schedules. See 90.01. Electronic communication records may also be subject to public records requests, legal discovery, and audit review.

Electronic communication methods include, but are not limited to, e-mail, instant messaging, social networking (e.g., Twitter, blogs, wikis), and text messaging.

For retention purposes, electronic communications are considered methods of delivery rather than record types. Electronic communications, like conventional paper-based mail, can convey many kinds of records and messages. As such, electronic communications are to be managed by message content.

Management Responsibility

The University does not have a central process for managing electronic communication records, thus management responsibility resides with University staff and departments.


Personal Electronic Communications

If conditions specified in 20.37 are met, University employees may make occasional but limited use of University computers or accounts to briefly retain personal electronic communication messages unrelated to official University business.

Personally-Owned Computers or Personal Electronic Communications Accounts

University employees should not use personally-owned computers or personal accounts (e.g., non-University e-mail accounts) to retain official University business-related electronic communication messages.

NOTE: University business-related electronic communications stored on non-University computers or electronic communications accounts may be subject to public records requests, legal discovery, court-ordered production, audit review, and records retention requirements.

Social Networking Websites

When retention of authorized electronic communications is outside University control, e.g., retention of postings to social networking websites, departments must consider what other records need to be retained. E-mail confirmations of each post or comment are possible examples.

Departments must consider records retention issues when considering any agreements with vendors of social networking websites and when configuring settings for departmental social networking website accounts.

Electronic Communications That May Be Deleted When No Longer Needed

As described below, many electronic communications consist of transitory messages. As such, many electronic communications and attachments may be deleted when no longer needed.

Meeting notices and requests for meetings may be deleted when no longer needed.

Copies used for informational/reference purposes may be deleted when no longer needed.

Electronic communications records that have no administrative, legal, fiscal, or archival retention requirements may be deleted as soon as the messages have served their purpose. See "Administrative Materials With No Retention Value," in 90.01.12. Such records include:

Electronic communications records meeting the definitions included in "Reference Files," in 90.01.13 may be deleted when no longer needed. Such records include:

Reference files containing copies of correspondence, memoranda, copies of reports, studies, articles, reference copies of minutes, distribution lists, and other general reference information on office administrative issues and concerns, used to support administrative analysis, planning and development.

Electronic Communications To Be Retained

Electronic communications and attachments that contain record material must be retained in conformance with the applicable retention schedule. See 90.01.

The following types of electronic communications messages and attachments are likely to include records with specified retention periods:

Most executive records are retained for four years after the end of the current fiscal year. This includes official correspondence concerning policy issues, concerns, actions or issues. (NOTE: For purposes of this policy, officials with the status of dean or above are considered executives.) See 90.01.10-11.


It is important to determine who holds the primary record of a document for retention purposes. Reference or informational copies may be deleted when no longer required by the record holder (see above).

The retention schedule usually identifies the office responsible for retaining the official record copy. If the retention schedule does not provide sufficient guidance, refer to the following:

A draft of a policy is sent to a number of reviewers. The initiator of the draft is responsible for retaining the record copy.

An agenda or meeting minutes are sent to a number of attendees. The sender is responsible for retaining the record copy.


University departments and personnel may use one or more of the following methods to assure appropriate management of records with assigned retention periods.

Retain in Electronic Communication Application Format

Retain the message in the original electronic communication application format on the record holder's hard drive; removable digital media; or an external storage service or device. The original electronic communication application format is likely to capture and preserve all relevant metadata and attachments related to the record. Metadata is defined as data about data and may describe the content, time, date, author, and formatting of a message. Metadata may be used to aid in the storage, indexing, and retrieving of electronic records for public use.

NOTE: Printing and retaining a paper copy of an electronic communication is not a substitute for the electronic version, in accordance with WAC 434-662-040.

To facilitate retrieval, retention, and eventual disposal, the record holder could establish separate folders. Each folder could correspond to a specific scheduled records series. Electronic communications folders should be coordinated with any paper or other electronic filing systems that are in place.

Retain in Document Management System

Electronic communication messages may be retained in a document management system (DMS) or records management application (RMS). Such systems offer sophisticated control of electronic records, allowing integration of electronic communication messages within the total document environment of an organization. Such software offers single point access to a variety of formats, thus preserving the functionality of documents. NOTE: The DMS or RMS software must have the capability of capturing and preserving all relevant metadata and attachments related to the records.

Technology Changes

Many electronic communication messages must be retained longer than the original technology that was used to send, receive, or store them. Departments are responsible for ensuring that older electronic communication messages are migrated to newer technology.


Employees are encouraged to review the privacy provisions of EP4, Electronic Communications Policy.