Ownership and Control of University Records

A. The Distinct Purpose and Mission of the University of Wisconsin

The purpose and mission of the University of Wisconsin is distinct from other Wisconsin state agencies. The purpose is to enable students of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of income to participate in the search for knowledge and individual development. Wis. Stats. § 36.01(1). The mission is to develop human resources; discover, disseminate, and extend knowledge beyond the boundaries of campuses; and serve and stimulate society by developing in students a heightened intellectual expertise and sense of purpose. Wis. Stats. § 36.01(2). 

Subsequent to this distinct purpose and mission, the public records made, received, or in the custody of the University of Wisconsin are the property of the State of Wisconsin. Wis. Stats. § 16.61(4)(a). However, the Board of Regents may control any records that are necessary and required for the use of the University of Wisconsin. Wis. Stats. § 36.11(1)(b). Moreover, the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin owns all of the non-public records created or received by the University of Wisconsin, regardless of their physical location, and even when they are in the possession of individual University employees. Wis. Stats. § 36.11(1)(b).

B. Management of University Records: The Distinct Governance Structure of the University of Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents bears primary responsibility for governance of the University of Wisconsin System, and shall enact policies and promulgate rules for governing the system. Wis. Stats. § 36.09(1). The President of the University of Wisconsin System is vested with the responsibility of administering the system under Board policies and directing a central administration, which shall assist the board and president in establishing system-wide policies and coordinating program development and operation among institutions. Wis. Stats. § 36.09(2). The Chancellors are the executive heads of their respective faculties and institutions and shall be vested with the responsibility of administering board policies, under the coordinating direction of the president, and be accountable and report to the President and the Board on the operation and administration of their institutions. Wis. Stats. § 36.09(3). 

The Board of Regents bears primary responsibility, therefore, for enacting a records management policy. The President of the University of Wisconsin System is vested with the responsibility of administering this policy. Under the coordinating direction of the President of the University, the Chancellors shall administer this policy and be accountable and report to the President and the Board regarding records management at their respective institutions.