Statement on Electronic Signatures

With the College’s pledge toward sustainability and reducing paper waste, and the ease with which the community can share information electronically, there is an increasing desire to move agreements and contracts online.  Many of these types of documents require signatures, which is why historically they have been collected and stored in paper form.  However, after discussing the legality of electronic signatures with our attorneys we have learned that they are a viable option as long as the following conditions are met:

  1. There must be a clearly specified process on the online form for indicating one’s agreement to the displayed text (e.g., checking a checkbox, clicking on a button, or typing one’s name).

  2. The signing process must be designed so that it clearly establishes intent to sign the document on the part of the signer (i.e., the wording and layout must be designed so that the signers have a clear understanding that applying their electronic signature means they are agreeing to the document).

  3. The system must save the signature, and attached it to (or logically associate it with) the stored record of the document signed.

  4. The system that displays the document to be signed and captures the signature must be installed behind an authentication system so that this system can accurately record who signed the agreement and at what time.

  5. Since the electronic version of a form document that is displayed for signature may be later modified, a copy of each of the different versions of the document must be stored electronically along with the date of modification.  The electronic signature on any particular version must be stored in a manner such that it is attached to (or logically associated with) the specific version in use at the time it was signed. This should result in the ability to retrieve who signed which version of the agreement in case this is needed.

These electronic signatures must be stored with the document for at least 2 years or for as long as the document is in effect. The system storing the information must also be designed to ensure that the document and its associated signature cannot subsequently be altered without authorization of both parties.