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There is a student that I helped a lot which I shouldn't. Now I don't like her to attend my defence while she has the same supervisor as me. Can I ask her to leave if my supervisor invited her by any chance? (I just don't like this person around me for taking credit of my ideas)

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    Is there any reason to believe she would actually say something during your defence ? Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 16:04
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    Note: in some countries, PhD defenses are required to be public; meaning that, while you may ask someone not to attend, you wouldn't be able to prevent them.
    – a3nm
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 12:25
  • I had to do my thesis defence with an internal examiner that I had ''bad blood'' with and just had to get it done even though he was being rude and using it as an opportunity to attack me. Just something you have to deal with.
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 12:37

4 Answers 4

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Keep calm and get your defence done with. Live a 'happy' research life after!


Can I ask her to leave if my supervisor invited her by any chance?

Can you? You can.
Should you? You shouldn't. Things might/would spiral down quickly.

Your defense is your (next) most important moment after all these years. Why ruin it or get it messy with your supervisor at a critical moment?

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    In the German universities I know these events are open to the all university members and you can't exclude anybody - not even the chair of the committee would be allowed to do that (unless any misconduct happens during the event…).
    – Dirk
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 21:02
  • @Dirk: Are you sure? At least here in Sweden, the presumption of openness is strong, but not so strong as to override all other considerations. If, say, person X had an acknowledged history of harassing the candidate, I would expect the university to be willing to exclude person X.
    – PLL
    Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 15:10
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    If there such a history of harassment exist then the university may ban somebody using "Hausverbot". I don't know who would have authority to ban somebody for just one specific event beforehand, but in case something happens during the event, the head of the committee could execute Hausrecht to force somebody to leave.
    – Dirk
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 11:26
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If the supervisor invited her, I'd suggest you not ask. It could get very awkward. Taking credit for your ideas is a different matter, but the defense is not the time to deal with it.

You don't want the supervisor upset with you at that moment especially.

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Depending on what exactly you mean by "invited", there may be a way around this through scheduling.

When I was planning my defense, there was a professor I really wanted to not be there. It wasn't for the same reason as you're stating, but there was a dynamic I really wanted to avoid during the big event.

So I scheduled my defense during one of that professor's classes. I knew that he could not attend my defense if he was teaching in the classroom on the next floor up at the same time.

If you're in control of scheduling, then you can pick a time you know will not be accommodating for the person in question. At my school, scheduling was a hard enough of a problem that nobody really expected that a given defense would allow every single member of the faculty to attend.

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We know only your half of the story. If we would listen to their side of the story, it would be probably someone feeling their contributions undervalued, or even that you stole their ideas and that you hide acknowledging her contributions.

So the hard facts are simply two:

  • you are defending your thesis with some ideas inside (which are yours, until someone spread doubts about it);
  • you spent many hours with this student (and even if you did not want or realize, surely you spoke also about the ideas that you developed and wrote in your thesis).

It is your defense, but if possible future development of this relation are really worriyng you ... do not be defensive.

Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack

Your defense is the best moment to publicly clarify your relation with this student, you can say that along the past months/years you enjoyed[1] spending many hours supporting her work and supporting her was extremely helpful to the development of your ideas.

Leave it at that.

[1] otherwise, why would you be so resentful that you spent so much time with them?

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    " Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack" someone had to
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 13:28
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    I think doing this would likely make you come off as extremely petty and insecure.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 18:29
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    @ChrisH always a pleasure when someone get the reference :D
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 7:57
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    @Bryan Assuming that the statement is representative of the actual events, I don’t see how it could possibly make you look petty or insecure to mention you’ve spent time with another student supporting their work, which in turn was helpful to developing your own ideas. Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 10:48
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    The first half of this answer is excellent straight talk. The second half seems to me (like @BryanKrauseisonstrike says) terrible advice, especially in light of the first half.
    – PLL
    Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 19:28

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