Saturday, December 18, 2004

Student loan update, and some thoughts on Deleuzian networks of control

Yesterday the Royal Bank returned the money they withdrew from my bank accounts.

Since sending my letter on Tuesday, the CBC has been the only news source to publish it and the Royal Bank the only institution to contact me. Of course I didn't expect to change the world in three days, but I am a bit disappointed and disheartened that no one else I contacted considered my experience and concerns either news-worthy or significant enough to respond.

Despite the kindness of the gentleman from the Royal Bank who called me, my money was returned not because an error had been made, nor because the bank wanted to accept responsibility for their role in my situation, but because the bank "valued" me as "a long-time customer" and because they were sorry that, despite me being "proactive" and doing my part, "the process failed" me. In other words, the bank positioned itself as another victim of "the process" and my money was returned only as an act of "customer service".


I submitted my University-signed confirmation of enrollment on October 15 - two weeks before the deadline. All paper records indicate that the bank received that confirmation the same day. But for one of my three loans, the bank also requires electronic confirmation from the National Student Loan Centre - which receives its electronic confirmation from the University - and they did not receive that final electronic confirmation until November 22.

No one can tell me what happened between October 15 and November 22. Although I clearly existed in the material world, my data-self was effectively disappeared.


Deleuze got it right: we no longer live in Foucault's disciplinary society; we live in societies of control.

"In the societies of control ... what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code... The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become 'dividuals,' and masses, samples, data, markets, or 'banks' ... The disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energy, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network ... Man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt..."

In the case of student loans, we would do better to avoid the language of systems (the term I let slip out) or process (the bank's favoured term), both of which imply some sort of predictability and stability that are absent. What we are all embroiled in is a network in the Deleuzian sense. We are not dealing with enclosed spaces where someone is responsible; we're dealing with a fluid space where no one is accountable. The university says it's the banks and the government. The banks say it's the university and the government. And the government says it's the university and the banks. The network encourages a constant state of movement, continuously avoiding being bound and continually passing responsibility to the next module.

This type of control is particularly insidious because there is no panopticon. Control is diffuse and we can't locate - or fix - responsibility and accountability long enough to affect change. And it's particularly dangerous because it allows each of us to play the victim of an imaginary structure.


Anonymous C.Oro said...

HI, I stumbled across your page while researching governing regulations for bank accountability in the administration of student loans.

I, too, have been dealing with Royal Bank for a smaller debt incurred during my Master's studies in Philosophy--1996-1998. They have handled my account with repeated mismanagement, resulting most recently in their issuing a "Formal Demand" for full repayment in response to my request for an investigation into their handling of my account(s) (Seriously prejudicial).

I have suspected for quite some time now that the national 'default' rates are more largely attributable to faulty administrative management than to graduates' irresponsibility.

I am considering taking them to court for damages (wrongful and malicious reporting to the Credit Bureaus, incompetence, breach of trust, etc.). I am interested in Justice, and not in becoming a victim to their mismanagement.

If you have encountered any useful links/articles/statutes/case laws (I found your case--and its 'remedy--very interesting), I would appreciate you forwarding those to me.

Thank you,
Christine Oro
VP Exeternal University of Guelph GSA (1996-98)
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