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Remove Committee Member? Looking for Advice

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Hi all. I haven't posted on here for awhile, but I am looking for some advice. I am unable to go into detail, but generally talk about what is going on. I will appreciate any feedback.


I have organized my committee for my exams. I did this before taking classes with two of the members, but with talking it out with my adviser and talking to other people in the program about working with the two other members. And, now I have a concern about one of the members.


I had a somewhat rocky class with one of the members. It got to the point where the prof went out of their way in class to give others feedback on projects, and ignore giving feedback for me in a very recongizable way. We've also had a few outside of class conversations, where I've gone in to talk about course projects, and this prof has taken the opportunity to talk about concerns about me. The first time, the prof gave very confusing and contradictory feedback that was veiled. When I read between the lines and said, sure, I am aware that this happens, and I am working on it--the prof immediately said that wasn't what the prof was trying to convey to me, and the prof was sorry that they gave me a different impression. So, I took the talk as best I could.


Near the end of the semester, this prof and I had a conversation wherein the prof said that I was overly confident and agressive at times--and that behavior wears on people very fast. In this conversation, while the prof began each talk with some positive indicators, some of the feedback was very negative and directed at me as a person instead of my actions. The prof also said that they gave it a lot of reflection and decided to not make this public to others in the department.


I am also the first to admit that I have made some mistakes and sidesteps in that class, but when the prof mentioned one of them, when the prof completely shut down one of my comments with a classmate then jumping on board to shut down my comment--I shut down and withdrew from the conversation because I could not believe that there was no discussion of the comment. When the prof brought this instance up to me during the conversation, the prof read my body language as that I was being overly confident and disrespectful to others when I withdrew from the conversation--and that I couldn't do that. When I expressed it was because I felt shut down, the prof said that it didn't matter because the prof and possibly others read me in this negative way.


So, what I saw in this prof, as someone who is respected in the department, and someone that I respected for a good portion of the course--was a slow erosion of misunderstandings that led the prof to express their thoughts and feelings about me. This has now led me to think that we might not be suited to work with each other, and perhaps I should seek out a new committee member. But, if I go down that route, there are people in my department who are extremely prone to gossip--and not the nice kind--and who will want to find out and will probe me and possibly the prof for information as to why the prof is no longer on my committee.


I can't really talk about this with anyone in my department because it could get leaked to others through gossip, so this is really my only venue to solitcit advice on help with a decision before I talk to my adviser.


I thank you in advance for your help.

Edited by murkyama
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You've backed into a tough spot, but I'd never recommend removing a member.  You hit on a few of the reasons already.   Was that the question?


We have all met people who are so prickly and difficult that no one wants to handle them. Some situations are inescapable. Far better and much easier to begin to develop skills in practical psychology, alter a communication style to fit the situation, and modify the body language.   Managing human resources is more than half the job in every career.

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You can't really add or remove a committee member without anyone asking questions. So either you can come up with some kind of an answer, or you shouldn't even attempt it. When does the committee enter your life? Do you still have a semester or two to patch things up with this professor? Or is he famous for being unforgiving and difficult when on committees? You may be worrying prematurely and more than you should. 


If you do attempt it, the best advice I've been given by a prof on changing committee members (of the less relevant to my work kind): invite a more relevant faculty member to join; then worry about the size of the committee; ask for advice from the chair and aim to end up with the conclusion that the size should be reduced. The person who would be naturally chosen is the one doing less relevant work.

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I keep thinking that I wouldn't want to be removed, unless I were sick or planning to be away at a critical time, nor would I care to be one of the others remaining if someone else were axed sans decorum.  If you came to me and respectfully asked for another chance, how could I not agree?  (I'd have to be awfully hard edged to hold that grudge)


And if you were so fortunate to repair those lines of communication, that would be your rep.

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If you want to remove someone from your committee, then you should. You'll need to have a solid explanation for doing so though. It'll help (as someone else has already said) if you can add someone that is more closely connected to your interests. But, tbh, there's little reason to keep someone on your committee that you don't get along with since it will make earning your degree more difficult.

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