What is a safe space?

These are 25 quotes from hundreds of open-ended responses edited for brevity, spelling and grammar. The responses in this survey reflect the opinions of students and do not represent the views of the universities.

Compiled by Katelyn Becker

What does the term safe space mean to you in the context of your college/university?

  • A space where students can exist without hearing language that is oppressive to their identities.
  • A place where speech is restricted to provide an atmosphere of comfort.
  • I think it is baloney. I am a soldier. The term safe space should be embarrassing to civilians because they already live in a safe place and have no idea what a dangerous place actually is. There are better ways to go about creating a place where individuality, tolerance, acceptance, and community can be achieved without turning the end result into a paradise where the weak don’t need to learn how to be strong. The safe space validates otherwise cowardly and self-indulging behavior.
  • A place where LGBT students can discuss their identity.
  • It’s a phrase to hide behind when students start interacting with the real world. It’s for spoiled rich children who have never seen adversity.
  • Something that should not exist. Freedom of speech is a right and if I feel “threatened” by what someone else says, I should reevaluate my own life. Even President Obama said that college should be a time to have your views challenged, so “safe spaces” should not exist.
  • Violation of the First Amendment.
  • Conflicting things. Higher-ups in the administration as well as our new SGA President believe safe spaces are tools to inhibit speech and “shelter people.” To me, a safe space is a place where there is an understanding of respect and self-reflection of one’s own privilege that allows sensitive topics to be discussed in a positive manner with more careful communication than normal spaces offer.
  • Freedom of expression, location of open-minded dialogue, emphasis on marginalized communities.
  • An attempt by coddled children to diminish the First Amendment rights of those with whom they disagree.
  • A place where I can learn and be exposed to a diverse array of opinions, though the term has now been coined to mean a place where one is completely protected from anything that makes them uncomfortable. I do not agree with this, but it is the popular connotation at my university.
  • A place in which all people are welcomed, respected and accepted, and there is open, considerate conversation in which all opinions are regarded equally.
  • A place set aside for people who, for one reason or another, can’t handle certain material in classes, conferences, sessions.
  • It means an environment where your peers and mentors want to see you succeed and grow through trial and error; a place where it is okay to fail.
  • A lot. Many students at this university are very preoccupied with social justice and PC culture, and a safer space policy has been enacted on campus for virtually all events.
  • It means catering to someone else’s needs in a way, whether or not you know someone needs you to cater to them.  In many ways it limits the free flow of ideas, in many ways it protects people from hurt.  However, I think the best way to deal with harmful ideas is to discuss them, not to prevent speech due to it being “offensive.”  Who decides what is offensive?
  • An unconstitutional bubble devoid of sense and reality.
  • Safe space means my identity will purposefully be taken into account and so will others.’
  • Somewhere I’m not afraid to voice my opinion and I’m not scared to walk around campus.
  • A space within which a person can speak freely without fear of social repercussions for their thoughts.
  • A safe space, to me, would be a place where students who are typically in minority groups can feel safe to express themselves without threat or fear of harassment from other demographics on campus.
  • A space a student is free to discuss their personal experiences in a supportive environment.
  • People of all backgrounds can feel comfortable living their life authentically and speaking their mind.
  • “Safe space” makes me feel like my thoughts and ideas about a certain topic may offend someone and result in disciplinary action against me. This results in a chilling effect to my freedom of expression and minimizes my ability to use a forum, which I pay $50,000 a year to attend, for its purpose of engaging in debate and open dialogue in order to obtain a well-rounded education and exposure to a diverse set of viewpoints.
  • A space where the concerns of a human that are not usually respected in the general public are fully respected and handled delicately.