What is the frequency of silence?

Had to make a quick trip to lab this evening (side note: 12 hour time points are the worst). I decided to stop by the chapel on my way home. It was empty save for the person at the desk at the back and I selected a pew somewhere between the third and fourth columns and lied down. Staring up at the ceiling, (next time you’re there, take some time to look at the ceiling—there are carvings of crests and some neat angles of arches) I could feel the silence of the chapel settling in. This got me thinking…

There are so many flavors of silence. There’s the “nature” silence when the animals are quiet—think tall pine trees with sunlight streaming through leaving behind beams of light. There’s the nervous silence of students frantically writing during a test. There’s the calm silence of acceptance and wonder present on a fifth floor, secluded balcony on cold winter nights. There’s the silence of anticipation inside a movie theatre. There’s the uncomfortable, prickly silence that can sit at a table creating distance between two people. There’s the comfortable, soft silence that can sit at a table drawing together two people. And then there’s the heavy silence within the chapel. At least that’s what it felt like tonight. It was as if the silence was challenging someone or something—challenging me—to make a disturbance and interrupt the formidable void of noise. It was the kind of silence that made me itch in my own skin. Maybe it felt heavy because I know I’m not a quiet person, and when presented the task of remaining completely still, completely silent, I’m predisposed to fail. The varieties of silence are endless and I wonder what they all have in common. Do they share the same frequency? Is the frequency of silence 0 Hz?

Food for thought. Dr. Setton was chatting with Tim, Pricilla, and Chris about this in lab today. She described some of the time she has spent on a hiring committee while at Duke—from her perspective, she has seen two opposing forces. The majority of administration (and many other professors) push to hire stellar research faculty whereas those on the other side want to hire more junior faculty consisting of people who are interested in teaching. Seeing as undergraduate tuition funds professors’ salaries (on average, $180,200 annually as of the 2012-13 academic year) it would make sense to invest it in professors with whom we actually learn from and interact with.

That being said, I do see the argument that hiring stellar research faculty (who have minimal undergraduate interaction) contribute to the institution as a whole. They contribute to the intellectual climate, encourage high caliber students to matriculate, and lead the uni into a (hopefully) positive feedback cycle.

I’m not really sure what to think, but as a student, I would appreciate actions by universities to hire more professors who actually want to teach. College is expensive and we want to get what we (or the rents) pay for. Regardless, I’m apprehensive as to how we will be able to (individually and societally) pay for schooling costs in the future.

And on the previous classical music note, I guess I’ll try to squeeze out the previous earworm with one of my all time favorite cello sonatas, although I think this interpretation is a little fast…

(Skip to 1:53 and 5:30 for the best parts of the piece.)