If I already asked a professor to serve on my dissertation committee but I now longer want him on my committee for various reasons, how can I politely tell him this through email? I just don't know how to say this in a polite and not at all prideful way.

  • 2
    Is there any reason why you can’t just be honest?
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 3:58
  • 3
    This assumes that you have the choice - in some disciplines you don’t have any...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 6:25
  • What's the country? Please elaborate on how are things done there. In my country, you'd have no power at all; you could talk with your supervisor, and they might suggest some people to be on the comittee, but the decision is made by the head of the comittee and the faculty council. No one cares about the student's preferences. Is it different at your place?
    – user68958
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 10:31
  • It's in the U.S. Yes, I intend to be honest when I tell him. I just wanted to know how to word it to him. And technically I do have a choice in who goes on my committee
    – Sarah.M
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


You do not need to tell them from the first place. They will implicitly understand that you changed your mind. It is fine. But if you send them the official forms and dissertation, I think you need to follow a certain procedure. In this case, it is not polite and not recommended to change a committee member unless there are strong reasons.

Contacting committee members should be done by the supervisor not by the student in most of the places. I highly recommend you to consult your supervisor as this is part of the supervisor's job.

  • I think the last part of this answer is the key. Let your advisor/supervisor tell them, rather than doing it yourself. This avoids making a potential enemy. Speak to your advisor.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 12:36
  • Oh not at all, his name is not on any official form or on my dissertation so that part is not a problem. I didn't want to just be quiet and then make things awkward with him and me in the department.
    – Sarah.M
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 15:47
  • In my experience in the US, it's the student who tends to organize the committee and contacts committee members, not the supervisor. I guess this is yet another thing that varies by field or location. Certainly is worth consulting the supervisor though, not least since they might have to sign updates forms.
    – Anyon
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 16:38

Just tell him you've decided to replace him but thank you for having been willing. Don't volunteer or reply with the "why". If you're on campus, I would just do it in person. Make sure you have a replacement available too. Then just notify whoever maintains records of such stuff, department secretary, I guess. Probably worth letting your advisor know too.

  • Okay thank you. I would do it in person, but he travels a lot, which is why I wanted to send an email to him.
    – Sarah.M
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 15:48

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