After a five-year hiatus to the program, “Quiet Hours” — featuring freshly baked cookies, cozy seating and a distinct lack of screens and sound — will be held every Thursday in Weaver Cottage from 7 to 9 p.m.
Associate Professor of English Sarah Heidt created Quiet Hours in 2014 to provide students with peaceful moments of phone-free reflection during her time as a faculty-in-residence in Norton Residence Hall. The events were paused from 2018 onward due to Heidt’s time running the Kenyon-Exeter program and the pandemic, but Heidt relaunched the program this September as a means for students to work and rest in the company of others following the isolation caused by COVID-19.
Quiet Hours are primarily intended to give participants a sense of fellowship and solidarity without making them feel as though they need to engage in conversation. According to Heidt, students should occupy the silent, phone-free time with an activity that best suits their individual needs; suggested pastimes include knitting, napping, studying or enjoying the freshly baked cookies Heidt often prepares in Weaver Cottage beforehand to bring a pleasant aroma to the building.
“One of the things that I loved was that almost inevitably, somebody would come in and kind of start to read a book and then just fall asleep for like two hours. And so just like the idea that it was an environment that was quiet enough and calm enough that people could just kind of do the thing that was most restful for them was really important to me,” she said in an interview with the Collegian.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Celestino Limas, Quiet Hours are part of a broader effort around campus to mitigate day-to-day stressors of campus life with moments of tranquility and reflection. “The wellness meditation room over in Farr Hall is kind of expanding that approach, because it doesn’t have to live in just one space,” he said. To Limas, the Center for Wellness and Meditation, located under the Gambier Deli, provides a similar service as the Quiet Hours program every day of the week; individuals can use the space to read, craft or meditate — just without Quiet Hours’ promise of silent companionship.
While the first Quiet Hours, which took place Sept. 21, drew fewer than 10 total participants, Heidt is optimistic that time and word of mouth will attract more individuals to future sessions. She emphasized that the success of Quiet Hours cannot be gauged solely by the number of attendees, as the sense of community provided to participants may provide an immeasurable boost to someone’s mental health or wellbeing. “The thing that’s hard about saying what makes it successful is that for any one person at quiet hours, it might be a really important experience for them that week,” she said.
For Heidt, the ingenuity of Quiet Hours ultimately lies in its simplicity. From student organizations to individuals unable to make the Thursday timeframe, she encouraged interested parties to organize their own versions of phone-free work time and convene in silence. “If there were students who were interested in expanding beyond just one night a week, I think that could be great. There’s nothing that magic about it, just putting devices to one side and sitting. But there’s also something magic about that too,” she said.