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John Hay Library, Brown University Archives

Records Management: About Data, Privacy, Compliance, and Records Management Committee

As described in the charge to the Records Management Steering Committee issued by Provost Kertzer in July, 2008:

Brown University has long recognized its fiscal, legal, and historical responsibilities to the academic community and its benefactors to maintain academic, business and administrative records. Due to the rapid increase in print, electronically reformatted and "born-digital" [machine-readable] records produced by University departments and offices, we are experiencing a pressing need to review current procedures and develop policies and a comprehensive records management program that will meet the individual and collection needs of units across the campus.

Over the past twelve months, the Records Management Steering Committee has diligently sought to educate itself about current practices (and gaps) in recordkeeping across campus by querying representatives from the ten offices represented among the Committee's membership, speaking with several other Brown offices, and seeking feedback from FEC. The Committee also spent a great deal of time reviewing a wide range of guidelines and best practices created by other universities and colleges and invited Shelton Waggener, Associate Vice Chancellor & Chief Information Officer from University of California, Berkeley to speak about UCB's institutional data management program. Armed with this newly acquired information, the Steering Committee set about drafting four substantial documents which comprise the Committee's final report:

The associated documents provide a solid foundation for individual departments and offices to collaborate with the appropriate administrative offices in addressing the remaining portions of the Steering Committee's charge: 1) identification of appropriate state and federal laws and regulations, (2) identification of vital records (partially accomplished by the Business Continuity Working Group), and (3) estimation of necessary staffing and resources. As in many areas of implementing the policies and developing unit-specific recordkeeping guidelines, we believe that the most effective decisions, made in consultation with the appropriate administrative offices, will come from those closest to the actual work. We emphasize the need to make the creation and management of University records an integral part of each department or office's work processes and associated business procedures.

Building on the framework described in the draft policies and guidelines, the Records Management Steering Committee offers the following recommendations:

  • Establish an ongoing oversight committee for institutional records management;
  • Identify and appoint primary data stewards, outlining clear roles and responsibilities;
  • Create and maintain an institutional records management website;
  • Update and amend policy and guideline documents as needed;
  • Create and publish record retention schedules;
  • Determine security classifications as well as confidentiality and privacy status of all records within each department and office (to be accomplished at the unit level);
  • Engage in educational outreach, training and user support programs for all aspects of records management;
  • Assess outcomes of these measures after one year and determine next steps.

While neither the recommendations listed above nor the proposed policies and guidelines requires new funding at this time, all speak to a new awareness of and potentially new ways of dealing with institutional records. Over the long term, the University is encouraged to develop an integrated and collaborative data environment using Web-enabled technologies to maximize access to data and to improve the exchange of needed information across the campus. For now, we can accomplish much in terms of controlling the creation and growth of records, fostering accountability, improving efficiency and productivity, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, decreasing litigation risks, ensuring privacy and confidentiality, protecting the integrity of records, and safeguarding vital records and systems by following the proposed policies and guidelines.

Institutional records are relevant to planning, managing, operating and auditing the major academic, business and administration functions of Brown. The records that Brown creates are one of its most important assets. To this end, we look forward to your feedback on our report and to the opportunity of our continued involvement in the management of institutional records.

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