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(pages II-500 through II-599)

II-500 Archives Policy
II-501 Departmental Personnel Records Policy


  1. MISSION OF THE ARCHIVES. The primary purposes of the UW-Madison Archives are: to preserve university records and information of permanent historical value; to provide records management services; and to serve as an educational resource encouraging administrative and scholarly research in its collections. As part of General Services, the University Archives reports to the vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost. Its governing policies are approved by the campus Archives Committee (Faculty Policies and Procedures 6.24). Operating policies and procedures employed to carry out the mission of the Archives are based on the "Core Mission and Minimum Standards for University Archives in the University of Wisconsin System," endorsed by the Board of Regents in 1980.

    In carrying out its mission the University Archives:

    1. is an official state depository of records. In 1985 the Archives was designated as the official depository for all records of permanent value of the UW-Madison, the System Administration, the UW-Extension, and the Center System.

    2. develops, maintains and distributes a manual which outlines procedures for offices to meet their responsibilities for records management and preservation and to gain access to university and State records services.

    3. in consultation with appropriate campus offices, provides efficient and economical records management services; determines administrative, financial, legal and historical records preservation needs within the university; and serves as intermediary between university offices and the State of Wisconsin Public Records and Forms Board.

    4. appraises, accessions, arranges, describes and preserves records transferred to its custody while providing access to its holdings, in accordance with accepted professional archival principles.

    5. cooperates with state and national archival, historical and records management professional organizations on behalf of the university to keep informed on major issues of concern to the profession and participates in networking arrangements to share resources with other research institutions.

  2. ROLE OF DIRECTOR OF THE ARCHIVES. The Director of the Division of Archives has the working title of University Archivist and is responsible for arranging the retention/disposition of records transferred to the custody of the Archives, approving records retention policies, and providing general advice and guidance to university offices concerning the preservation of their historical papers and materials. The Director establishes working policies and procedures as necessary to carry out the functions of the Archives.

  3. DEFINITION OF UNIVERSITY RECORDS. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is subject to the definition of public records [Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 16.61(2)(b)]. This statutory definition applies to all official records created and/or maintained by university offices. All official public records must be scheduled for retention/disposition in accordance with Wisconsin Statutes 16.61, subject to approval by the Public Records and Forms Board. No department or other office may destroy any public record without the permission of the Board and University Archivist.

    Because of the wide range of responsibilities carried out by members of the faculty, their public papers contain a unique combination of professional, research and instructional documentation. While certain portions of faculty papers are covered under the statutory definition, other portions are traditionally considered private papers. The Archives collects both the public and private faculty papers and will provide assistance to faculty members regarding the disposition and preservation of their records.

  4. ACCESS/REFERENCE POLICY. Like all other offices of the university, the Archives is subject to the provisions of the Open Records Law [Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 19.35]. Records in the Archives are open without restriction unless they have been closed or otherwise restricted by statute or other legal agreement. The use of the University Archives is governed by "UW Archives Reference Policy and Rules," dated January 1988.

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At its meeting on April 3, 1978, the Faculty Senate requested the University Committee, in conjunction with the Administration, to develop a policy statement to govern faculty personnel records at the departmental level. An ad hoc committee was appointed jointly by the University Committee and the Administration to help work toward such a policy statement, and it submitted a report on January 18, 1979. The following statement of policy is drawn from the majority view in that report. Law and legal interpretation in the area of personnel records are subject to frequent change. This statement addresses the general principles that should govern university policy within the scope of the law as we currently understand it. It is intended to provide guidance to departments and to individual faculty members on how personnel files are to be maintained and on the rights and limits of access to them.

  1. PURPOSE AND CONTENTS OF DEPARTMENTAL PERSONNEL RECORDS. Departmental personnel files for each faculty member should contain only that information which is relevant to the faculty member's status and performance as a faculty member, and to the commitments made to and by him/her--i.e., only that information which the university is required to know for the performance of valid and necessary university functions. No other information should be included without the agreement of the faculty member concerned, or except at his/her own initiative. If unsolicited material pertaining to a faculty member is included in the subject's file as relevant, the faculty member should be informed that it has been so included.


    1. Within the limits contained in the section on confidentiality (below), the individual faculty member should have the right to inspect his/her own personnel file, the right to copy any portion of it, and the right to append a personal statement concerning the accuracy, relevance, or applicability of any material in it.

    2. Within the university, including the Departmental Executive Committee, access to a faculty member's personnel file by anyone other than the subject should be on a "need to know" basis--that is, access should be limited to circumstances in which the information sought is essential to a legitimate university purpose.

    3. Absent a valid subpoena or court order, departments should not disclose contents of a personnel file that are not public by law to anyone outside the university without the faculty member's prior consent. When disclosure of information other than that which is public by law is made to anyone outside the university, a record of such disclosure (a so-called "audit trail") should be kept.


    1. Faculty members should not have access to letters of recommendation from individuals outside the university which have been obtained only by making an express promise of confidentiality to the individual providing the recommendation. Departments should maintain a confidential file within the subject's file for this purpose. This is the only exception to the principle of maximum openness of a file to its subject, and it is justified by the compelling importance of acquiring honest evaluations. Departments have the obligation, however, continually to advise faculty on their progress toward tenure or promotion, and in pursuit of this obligation and in protection of the individual, departments should discuss the adverse comments contained in outside evaluations without disclosing either their verbatim texts or their authors, but disclosing details sufficient to allow the faculty member in question to make an informed reply. If, in the judgment of the department, such disclosure would reveal the identity of the author, the department should either obtain a waiver of confidentiality from the author, or exclude the letter from consideration.

    2. Confidential letters of recommendation should not be removed from a personnel file once they have served their original purpose, because they may be needed at some future time to document the basis for personnel decisions. In addition, State law does not permit the destruction of material that has properly been treated as part of a personnel file.

[UW-Madison Faculty Document 348, adopted 7 May 1979.]

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