HBP Part 20.6.5. Email Correspondence

Handbook of Business Procedures

Date published: October 23, 2012
Last revised: November 10, 2022
Issued by: Records Management Service


A. Introduction

Correspondence delivered electronically for the purpose of conducting official business at The University of Texas at Austin must be managed as an official university record. Email must be categorized by its content and function in accordance with The University of Texas at Austin Records Retention Schedule (UTRRS) and university policy. For example, if changes to a contract are developed via email exchange, the email thread becomes part of the contract file and must be retained in accordance with UT Item AALL570 Contracts and Other Agreements as listed in the UTRRS. On the other hand, if an email is an invitation to a baby shower for a colleague, it is categorized as transitory information and is managed in accordance with UT Item AALL083 Transitory Information.

For more information about categorizing email, refer to the following resources:

B. Determining Which Incoming and Outgoing Messages to Retain

  • Retain email conducting university business that you send. If you receive an email requiring an action on your part, retain that as well. 
  • If a response or a series of responses (a thread) is sent by email, keep the last outgoing or incoming email that shows the final final resolution of the correspondence.
  • If you forward an email to someone else for resolution, retain the forwarding email.

Note: Emails that are categorized as transitory information can be disposed of as soon as their purpose has been fulfilled.

C. How to Retain Email

  • Email that must be retained for fewer than 10 years or that will not require historical preservation in the university archives can be retained in its native format or as an archive in its native format until it meets retention requirements and is eligible for disposition. Retention in the native format ensures the retention of transmission data, also known as metadata (the data describing context, content, and structure of records), to establish the authenticity and integrity of the record.
    • Data to be retained include:
      • Name of sender
      • Name of recipient/addressee(s)
      • Date/time the message was sent
      • Attachments
  • According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, it is acceptable in most cases to migrate email that must be retained for an extended period to another formal. Use of an open format such is Adobe PDF/A, XML, or HTML is recommended. Metadata from the native format is to be preserved to the best degree possible, and care should be taken to associate any attachments with the email in the new format, either by filing structure or finding aid.
  • Preserve email that must be transferred to archives per UTRRS retention requirements while it is still in its native format. Contact RIMS to arrange a consultation if you are managing this type of email.
  • As with paper records, when an employee departs, it is best practice to transfer master electronic records, including emails, to a common folder where they can be managed by the department until the retention requirements are met.

Note: State law regarding electronic records requires: 

Retention of the descriptive and technical metadata required for electronic state records to be fully understandable by the appropriate designated community, including metadata necessary to adequately support the authenticity, integrity, reliability, and usability as well as the preservation of a record. (Rule 6.94(5))

And that electronic records be individually identifiable and retrievable for as long as they are retained. Backup tapes cannot be considered a method of retaining email records unless the backup tape is indexed for individual retrieval. (Rule 6.94(8))

D. How to Dispose of Emails

All email master records require submission of a Request to Dispose of Records Form from a department to Records and Information Management Services (RIMS) prior to deleting the emails. When completing the form, emails must be listed as part of the appropriate category of correspondence or project files using the UT item number found in the UTRRS. After receiving authorization to destroy the emails, delete them. For more information, refer to 20.5.4. Destruction Procedures and Form.

Note: It is not necessary to obtain authorization to delete emails categorized as convenience copies or as AALL083 Transitory Records.


Part 20. Records Management - Table of Contents