E-Mail Guidelines

Records Management offers general guidance to assist the University community with managing e-mail.

Much of this information is based on "Managing the Digital University Desktop," a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant-funded joint project that studied computer file management practices in academic units and administrative offices at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and Duke University.

Generally Accepted Practices:

  • Organizing and managing e-mail is the responsibility of the individual University employee.

  • E-mail systems administrators are responsible for system security and performance but not for advising users about which messages to keep and which to purge.


  • E-mail (like paper or microfilm) is not a record series in and of itself - rather, it is a means of transmission of information.

  • E-mails have different retentions based on the content of the message, just like other types of records.

  • Which e-mails to keep depends on the requirements in the University's records retention schedule.

  • Personal and 'junk' e-mail should be deleted as soon as no longer needed.

Legal Issues:

  • E-mail is discoverable in legal actions!

Formats for Saving:

  • Print important messages along with its metadata, or back-up to an electronic system.

  • Strategies such as backing up an e-mail system onto tapes or other media and purging all messages after a set amount of time are not appropriate for managing e-mail.

  • Saving messages in an open format (such as ASCII text) increases the chance of accessing messages in the future; however formatting in the original version may be lost.

  • Messages should be maintained in a format that preserves the accompanying metadata.

For more information, please see our Q&A page for managing email.

Other Helpful Links:

All Syracuse University faculty, staff and students are expected to be familiar with and abide by Syracuse University Policies. Questions about individual policies should be directed to the responsible unit noted under the “Policy Administration” section in each policy.