Last Revision: 11/02/2023


Process Owner: Office of Systems & Procedures, a division of the Office of Budget and Finance

Policy Steward facilitating procedure: Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance

Table of Contents:


  • Form - the completion of a form template by an end-user to provide data
  • Form Template - the data collection blueprint


In accordance with Policy FN17 Required Use of Approved University Forms Appearing in the General University Reference Utility (GURU) all University-wide usage forms must be vetted for use by the steward/applicable central office and approved by the Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance prior to being published. No form may be used that substitutes for an approved official University form without prior review and approval by the steward of the form/central office, as facilitated by the Office of Systems & Procedures (designated representative of the Office of Budget and Finance).

The development of a form template is based on the type of signature required on the form.



The ESIGN Act granted electronic signatures the same legal status as handwritten signatures throughout the United States, greatly simplifying and expediting how organizations gather, track, and manage signatures and approvals on agreements and documents of all kinds. Electronic signatures are legally recognized as a viable method to indicate agreement to a contract.

As with a handwritten signature, a signer must show clear intent to sign an agreement electronically. For example, signers can show intention by using a mouse to draw their signature, typing their name, or clicking an “Accept” button that is clearly labeled.

Most electronic signature laws also require some form of consent to do business electronically. Many enterprise electronic signature solutions ask signers to “click to accept” a standard consent clause or provide an option to customize a consent clause such as:

  • "The parties agree that this agreement may be electronically signed. The parties agree that the electronic signatures appearing on this agreement are the same as handwritten signatures for the purposes of validity, enforceability, and admissibility."

If a signer elects to opt out of signing an agreement electronically, clear instructions on how to sign an agreement manually should be easily accessible as part of the signature workflow.

All signers should receive a fully executed copy of the agreement. Many electronic signature solutions automatically provide executed copies of agreements to signers as part of the approval workflow.


In the United States, there are two primary types of electronic signatures:

  1. Electronic signatures (eSignatures)
  2. Digital signatures

eSignatures refers to any electronic process that indicates acceptance of an agreement or record. Most electronic signature solutions in the United States fall into this broad category. Electronic signatures use a wide variety of common electronic authentication methods to verify signer identity, such as email, corporate ID, password protection, or a PIN sent to a mobile phone. Proof of signing is demonstrated via a secured process that often includes an audit trail and a final tamper-evident digital certificate embedded into the completed signed document.

Digital signature uses a digital certificate from a trust service provider (TSP), such as a certificate authority (CA), to authenticate a signer’s identity. The digital certificates demonstrate proof of signing by binding the digital certificate associated with each signature to the document using encryption.


Form templates appearing on the GURU website are University documents requiring the signature of:

  1. individuals or entities external to the University and thereby do not have access to University authentication.
  2. individuals possessing University log-in credentials and authentication.

The type of access determines the application to be utilized to create the form template. There are several different types of form applications available for use on GURU:

  • Adobe Sign Form Templates
  • DocFinity Electronic Form Templates
  • Adobe Acrobat "Fill-and-Print" PDF Form Templates

The Office of General Counsel reviews each proposed form to verify the type of signature required on the proposed form.

Adobe Sign Form Templates:

The University has entered into a contract with Adobe Sign to create form templates requiring signatures from individuals without access to University authentication (see type 1 above). In conjunction with the Office of Systems & Procedures, the University's Adobe Sign Team creates the form within Adobe Sign and controls access to the form template. The Adobe Sign Team is responsible for the retention of both the information submitted on the form and the form templates in accordance with the Financial Records Retention Schedule.

DocFinity Electronic Form Templates:

DocFinity Form Templates are electronic form templates requiring multiple signatures. The established workflow built into the form automatically routes the form through the entire authorization process. The original requestor receives a "PDF" copy of the fully executed (approved) form. Individuals possessing University log-in credentials and authentication are able to complete this type of form template. The electronic workflow meets the requirements of the eSign Act. The Office of Systems & Procedures works with the DocFinity Team for the creation of the form template and the required approval workflow. The template, as well as a copy of the completed form is retained within the DocFinity system in accordance with the Financial Records Retention Schedule. The form template is a link available within the Forms section of the GURU website.

Any browser may be used to access the form.

Adobe Acrobat "Fill-and-Print" PDF Form Templates:

Forms requiring a single signature from an individual possessing University authentication credentials are created using Adobe Acrobat "Fill-and-Print" PDF forms. Digital signature boxes are enabled on the form. The digital signature meets the requirements of the eSign Act. The Office of Systems & Procedures creates the form template.

GURU PDF forms are designed for use with Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro. Each browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, etc) has a built-in PDF viewer making it the default PDF viewer without asking users. These built-in viewers do not necessarily support all features required for PDF forms. Similarly, many calculations are not supported by other stand-alone PDF readers (for examples, Nuance). It has been brought to the attention of the Office of Systems and Procedures that PDF forms do not function appropriately when accessed using Firefox and/or Microsoft Edge. In order to access any of the forms on GURU and have the fill-and-print functionality work properly, the end-user must access the GURU website using Google Chrome.

The latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader is available for free. Contact your IT support staff person for downloading assistance, if/as needed. An Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) account is also available, at no cost, to all Penn State students, faculty, and staff members. Sign up for an Adobe Creative Cloud account at adobe.psu.edu. If Adobe Acrobat Pro better suits your needs, contact your IT support staff person for purchasing and installation assistance.

Web-based Documents:

Clicking the form download icon on any of the form instruction pages on GURU will open a web-based version of the form. While it appears to have fill-and-print fields available, not all functionality may be available for use (i.e. digital ID fields). With some exceptions (see below), it will be necessary to convert these web-based documents to PDF documents.

Converting Web-based Documents to PDF Documents:

There are two (2) options available to download forms:

Option 1 - To create a PDF for this document (and only this document):

  • Click the download icon located in the upper right-hand corner of the web-page
  • Select a location to save the document where you will be able to locate the document
  • Click Save
  • Open the document from the saved location

Option 2 - To change system settings to always open documents with Adobe:

  • Click the download icon located in the upper right-hand corner of the web-page
  • Select a location to save the document where you will be able to locate the document
  • Click Save
  • The file will appear in the bottom left-hand corner of your browser window. Click the small up arrow to the right of the file name
  • Click the "Always open with system viewer" option
  • The form now opens as a PDF and can be completed
  • All PDF files will now open in a separate window in Adobe
Combining Multiple PDFs into a Single Document:

There may be times when it is necessary to combine multiple PDF documents into a single document for submission. In those instances, complete the following steps:

  • Click on the appropriate form in GURU
  • Complete the fill-and-print boxes on the web-based form
  • Click the printer icon located in the upper right-hand corner of the screen
  • Change Destination to Microsoft Print to PDF using the drop-down arrow
  • Click Print at the bottom of that panel
  • Enter a file name in the box at the bottom of the pop-up window (i.e. university-guest-presenter-agreement-smith-mary) and be sure to select a location where you will be able to relocate the document
  • Click Save

Repeat this process for each document that will be combined (each file name must be different from the previous (i.e.university-guest-presenter-agreement-smith-mary1, university-guest-presenter-agreement-smith-mary2)

  • Now, open one of the completed PDF documents and on the far right select combine files
  • Click Add Files and select the files to be combined
  • Click Combine

Clearing Fill-and-Print Form Fields:

All PDF forms have the "Clear Form" Bookmarks enabled. To clear ALL form field entries:

  • If left-hand column is not displayed when the document is opened, click the small arrow located at about the mid-point of the left-hand side of the screen to reveal the column
  • Click "Bookmarks" (looks like a ribbon)
  • Click "Clear Form"


The Financial Officer is responsible for ensuring that procedures pertaining to the accountability and safeguarding of all cash receipts, cash funds, and other assets are established and followed in accordance with approved University policies and procedures. Regular audits relating to advances, cash, travel, equipment accountability, and other expenditures provide a means to protect University assets. The Financial Officer is responsible for working with Internal Auditing when audits are being performed in the administrative area. Audits pertaining to sponsored activities or other audits performed by external auditors may also be performed. The Financial Officer is also responsible for working with the external auditor and/or a central University office related to these procedures.


University Records retention must be managed in accordance with Policy AD35 University Archives and Records Management, and retention schedules approved by the Records Management Advisory Committee, the Office of General Counsel, and Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff. These records retention schedules are derived from - or based upon - federal, state, and local statutes or regulations, University Policy, industry standards, and business needs. All University Records must be maintained in such a manner to provide ease of access, establish a suitable audit trail for all transactions, and to be reviewed prior to disposition.

University Records and Transitory/Disposable Record are defined below. See Policy AD35, Definition of Terms for additional information.

  • University Records - Information that documents a transaction or regularly conducted activity of the University and that is created, received or retained pursuant to law, University policy, or in connection with a transaction, business, or activity of the University. The term includes documents, papers, letters, books, drawings, maps, plans, photographs, tapes, film or sound recordings, microforms, digital or analog files, information stored or maintained electronically, and data- or image-processed documents.
  • Transitory/Disposable Records - University Records that have temporary value and, as a result, may be destroyed after they are no longer needed. In no event shall be retained longer than the official copy of the University Records as delineated on the Records Retention Schedule. Examples include photocopies of official University Records, a printed copy of a University Record that is held by the Responsible Party or within a System of Record, a spreadsheet containing data that is exported from an officially resides in another systems, personal emails not related to University business or activity, and/or mass emails or communications.

Upon completion of the retention period, University Records must be disposed of via secure destruction or transfer to University Archives, unless an exception to the disposition process set forth below applies. If the disposition method for University Records states "Review by Archives" on the records retention schedule, the employees responsible for those records should consult the University Archivist for a final determination of disposition. For University Records that must be securely destroyed, units may arrange for shredding services by either contacting the Blue/White Shredding Program or the Inactive Records Center.

Exceptions to the disposition process are as follows:

  • University Records subject to a Legal Hold (see Policy AD35, Legal Hold). A legal hold will remain in effect until it is released in writing by the Office of General Counsel.
  • University Records under audit or review by external auditors - The Financial Officer will be notified regarding any cost objects that are under audit hold; the Financial Officer will be responsible for contacting the Unit associated with the cost objects. An audit hold will remain in effect until the hold is released by the Office of Budget and Finance.
  • University Records under audit or review by Internal Auditing – Internal Auditing will notify the department or individual regarding any audit holds pertaining to an Internal Auditing investigation. The audit hold will remain in effect until the hold is released by Internal Auditing.

To safeguard the privacy of individuals, records that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII), as defined in University Policy AD53 Privacy Policy, or student records, as defined in University Policy AD11 Confidentiality of Student Records, must be destroyed beyond recovery. For additional information regarding privacy and the protection of an individual's personal information, see Policy AD53 Privacy Policy.

Additional questions may be directed to the Records Management Program.


There are no exhibits associated with this procedure.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this procedure, please contact the Office of Systems & Procedures by submitting a GURU Technical Support Request Form.




November 2, 2023


  • November 2, 2023 - New procedure


  • Original - November 2, 2023