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MIT's Benedict to retire after 8 years as student life dean

Larry Benedict will leave MIT after eight years at the school. Larry Benedict will leave MIT after eight years at the school.

The student government at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is lamenting the news that the dean of student life, a fixture for students at MIT and other universities in New England and Maryland during his 35-year career, is retiring.

Larry Benedict, who will be 63 when he steps down this summer, said it was time to relax after eight years overseeing student life at MIT and decades of similar jobs elsewhere. He spent the bulk of his career, from 1972 to 1988, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

At MIT, Benedict improved where students ate and lived and promoted more student activities, said Martin Holmes, president of the Undergraduate Association.

Benedict said he had a challenge upon arriving at MIT: "When I got here, the word on the street was that this was a fabulous place for academics, not a fabulous place for student life outside the classroom."

Working in student life, meanwhile, has become a much tougher job over the years, he said. "When I started, I never heard of eating disorders, attention deficit disorders. . . . We didn't have issues like Facebook where students could get in trouble before they knew it."

And the phrase "helicopter parents" was unknown. "Parents are involved in ways I never would have imagined possible," he said.

Go green, gingerly: Making a campus building as green as possible is a dandy idea, but try energy-saving moves for the long term, not just for brownie points, a Cambridge architect cautioned at a recent conference at Boston Architectural College.

Henry Moss, an architect with Bruner/Cott who worked on the renovation of Blackstone Station power plant for Harvard, said universities should avoid creating just one "trophy building" to get a certificate of recognition, and should instead strive to perfect strategies within a building, then spread it to other projects.

He was one of several panelists during the all-day conference on campus construction and preservation that attracted 165 participants.

He cited Harvard as an example of a university taking the right approach. The school learned how to monitor geothermal wells and insulation of brick walls during its work on Blackstone.

Harvard now has six buildings using geothermal wells, which use the earth as a source for cooling and heating, said Tom Vautin, Harvard's associate vice president for facilities and environmental services.

"What we are trying to do is take all of the experience we have, good and bad, and drive it forward," Vautin said.

Veggie Victory: Boston University has netted a ranking coup. Well, sort of. For offering such delicacies as soy tacos and vegan sorbet in its dining halls, BU made its debut appearance on PETA's annual list of vegeterian-friendly colleges.

Based on student recommendations and surveys, the youth division of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - peta2 - highlights 40 universities in the United States and Canada that offer an array of nonanimal-based food. Vegans, strict vegeterians, do not eat dairy or animal products.

Other New England schools on the list were Bowdoin College, Brown University, Wellesley College, and Smith College. Smith tantalizes its vegan students with scrambled tofu and vegetarian jambalaya. Wellesley wins rave reviews for soba noodles with veggies and tofu and stuff-your-own pita with Tofurky slices.

The honor, though, appears to be obscure, so much so that BU officials were not notified of the plaudit. "No one's aware of it, but we're happy the students enjoy the vegan options," said the school's spokesman, Colin Riley.

A top-10 ranking out of the 40 schools now on the list will be released next month.

Campus Insider runs on alternate Sundays with Ask the Teacher, an advice column. To submit tips to Campus Insider, e-mail Linda Wertheimer at wertheimer@globe.com and Peter Schworm at schworm@globe.com.

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