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I was a PhD candidate from September 2016 until May 2021 in an university in the US. After that I dropped my PhD studies and switched to master's degree and graduated this August. Now, it's a couple of months that I started my work in a company and work outside of academia.

You can find the long history of fights and conflicts between me and my former adviser in my previous posts.

Today, I became aware that still my former adviser has some information in his website about me. There are a couple of problems with this information:

  1. My former adviser put he/him as my preferred pronoun. Well, I never used any preferred pronoun and we never talked about it. I don't want to use it. I have my own personal preference and I don't want it besides my name.
  2. He put my degree as master's non-thesis. OK, I got a master's degree and yes it is non-thesis but I think it's not his business to showcase it. After I left his group, I passed a couple of courses and wrote a literature summary that was reviewed by another professor and I got my degree. In official diploma, it only says master's degree, so I'm not sure why he put it that way when he was not the professor that reviewed my literature summary and gave me a pass grade to receive my diploma. Long story short, I think it's not his business.
  3. He incorrectly claims that the topic of my literature summary was something else in that piece of information while it had nothing to do with the topic that I worked during the time that I was a PhD candidate. In another word, it's simply wrong. My former adviser put the title of my literature summary as X while it is clearly Y and has nothing to do with him.

Overall, it makes me uncomfortable. On the other hand, I would move to west coast just within a month from east coast and I have a full time job, so I don't have much free time to waste talking with my former adviser. I want to report it somewhere in the university and get it removed as soon as possible with no interaction or argument with my former adviser. Any idea or suggestion is much appreciated.

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    "so I don't have much free time to waste talking with my former adviser" I can't imagine this would take more time than writing up this post? Sep 30 at 19:14
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    Unfortunately, we can't help anyway. We don't know any better than you who maintains the website. I have been in various groups where the professor did themself, where someone who worked for them did, and where the dept did. We can't tell you whether to email your prof, their URA who makes the site, or the dept website coordinator. CV as individual factors. Sep 30 at 19:20
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    You might consider talking with the university official responsible for FERPA compliance. It's likely that you have the right to privacy with respect to some or all of this information under FERPA. Sep 30 at 19:50
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    @MithridatestheGreat: Considering many faculty have moved their websites to non-university hosted services (more because of bad university IT than any policy reasons), it is within their free speech rights to disseminate any nonsense without any accountability beyond being the possibility of being sued for libel (if their statements are actually libelous). Sep 30 at 20:26
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    @MithridatestheGreat: There's a long tradition in the academic world of universities hosting the personal websites of professors, at most with a disclaimer of some sort. This dates back to the time when there was no commercial hosting and the university did this as a service to free speech. No one thinks that a personal website hosted on a university server is actually a university website. Sep 30 at 21:03
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There are a couple of possibilities, though the first is more likely.

Some universities let faculty maintain their own web pages. In this case you have to contact the professor and ask for a change.

Some universities have a staff person maintain pages, possibly with input from the faculty member. In this case, you can contact them with a request.

But, I'd suggest that you just say you are uncomfortable with what the page says about you. But also supply what you would like it to say. Ideally, say this in detail making it easy to make a change. Use wording that is consistent with the rest of the page/site, for example.

But, don't complain about what you don't want to see, suggest what you do want said about you.

It is, as I said above, the most likely case that the professor has either direct control or a lot of influence over the site. If you don't get a reasonable response, you could then make a complaint to the superior of whoever is responsible.

And, even in the best case, expect the change to take a while.

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    I think it would be fair to ask for a complete removal of any personal data referring to OP. Name, actual master thesis title, any clue that could be traced back to OP.
    – usr1234567
    Oct 1 at 5:21
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    @usr1234567 While that is certainly an option, it's also the one most likely to attract pushback from the professor. "You actually were a PhD student of mine, so why exactly do you think you shouldn't be listed under Former PhD Students? Are you perhaps trying to conceal your PhD on your CV? I'm not going to help with that."
    – TooTea
    Oct 1 at 7:11
  • I feel some "not" is missing somewhere in the fourth para, but not sure with the three "but"s across that para and the following para.
    – justhalf
    Oct 1 at 9:47
  • @usr1234567 There are many cases where a list of names is perfectly acceptable, I'm not convinced that accurate factual statements here are a problem. For example, one cannot be an official co-author of a paper, and then expect to have your name removed after it has been published. Oct 1 at 12:05
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Depending on the country you would have different legal options and rights. If you're really bothered about this then perhaps look into that.

In general, however, start with a simple email to the individual politely requesting changes and see how that goes. Go up the chain of authority if you are dissatisfied.

Your second issue is rather contentious and I don't recommend pursuing it - you are IMO incorrect in arguing that it's "not his business" as he was your advisor. Your successes or failures do at least in some small way reflect on them.

Whatever you do, be polite - this may seem black and white to you, but other people involved may see it differently.

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  • It's in the US. Oct 1 at 13:50
  • @MithridatestheGreat Alas I am not familiar with US law on this subject.
    – StephenG
    Oct 1 at 14:46
  • @StephenG Basically, there is nothing the law says unless there are untrue statements. Essentially, the first point there is no legal option, but today's social climate can do a lot. Point 2 is the OP annoyed with semantics, nothing untrue as admitted by the OP. Point 3 has potential options, depending on the details. I would venture a guess to say that it is a disagreement on interpretation given the OP and adviser have a contentious history.
    – David S
    Oct 1 at 17:57
  • @DavidS About point 3: Well, it's not a disagreement. The title for my literature summary has nothing to do with my former PhD adviser or the topic that I was working on during my PhD candidacy, even tangentially. So, I'm surprised why he is putting the title of my literature summary completely wrong. It's like, someone put the information of a random student and claims his/her thesis topic was something else. Oct 1 at 18:31
  • @MithridatestheGreat Ok, I may be misunderstanding something then. To be clear, you had a PhD thesis/project/candidacy work left unfinished when you exited the program. You then had an unrelated literature summary that was completed as part of your Masters. Your former advisor now decided to name the literature summary after the work associated with him?
    – David S
    Oct 1 at 21:54

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