I say that we need to take another look at “office hours.” What do they mean? What are they supposed to achieve? If we are achieving those goals outside of a clearly stated four hours on the syllabus, that doesn’t mean that those efforts should be ignored.
Another serendipitous event—the arrival of a page of boilerplate “policies” to stick in my syllabi, much different from the boilerplate “policies” that I was told to insert last year and modified (apparently) without any input from the faculty—has also helped clarify some of my thinking about office hours.
I strongly believe (and this has been reinforced by discussions with colleagues) that many of said policies, including office hours, exist largely as a punishment for the perceived misbehavior of certain faculty members past and present. Rather than the dean or provost taking said faculty aside and saying “cut it out and behave like a professional adult,” the preferred solution is instead to impose a policy on everyone regardless of their past miscreant behavior, knowing full-well that the miscreants will just misbehave (albeit within the new, arbitrary rules) in the future anyway.