A "Safe Space" Is One Where There's Free Speech -- Even By People Whose Views You Might Find Seriously Wrong
First, it helps to understand that America is a constitutional republic -- not just a democracy -- and the limitations on power...and tyranny...are essential in that. From the Madison Project:
Most people often mistakenly refer to our nation as the greatest democracy on earth. They are mistaken because we are not an absolute democracy; we are a constitutional republic. That is what makes our nation great, for if we were merely a democracy, we would be anything but great. And to the extent that we no longer function as a constitutional republic, that greatness is rapidly ebbing away.
Why did we need a constitution? Why are popular elections not a sufficient means of preserving liberty?
A pure unbridled democracy is a political system in which the majority enjoys absolute power by means of democratic elections. In an unvarnished democracy, unrestrained by a constitution, the majority can vote to impose tyranny on themselves and the minority opposition. They can vote to elect those who will infringe upon our inalienable God-given rights. Thomas Jefferson referred to this as elected despotism in Notes on the State of Virginia (also cited in Federalist 48 by Madison):An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.
Thus, a constitution that limited and divided the power of government was necessary to preclude elected officials from imposing tyranny on the people. This is why they adopted a constitution with limited enumerated power, divided and checked across several branches and levels.
Tyranny is what many unelected, self-proclaimed representatives are trying to impose on campuses across America -- the tyranny of the removal of due process rights from men (typically men) accused of sexual misconduct on campus, for one.
Men and women who are guilty of this should be prosecuted and punished -- through the legal system, not through campus kangaroo courts.
And Frank Furedi writes in the LA Times of the tyranny of those trying to reimpose segregation on campus:
The meaning of a "safe space" has shifted dramatically on college campuses. Until about two years ago, a safe space referred to a room where people -- often gay and transgender students -- could discuss problems they shared in a forum where they were sheltered from epithets and other attacks.
Then temporary meeting spaces morphed into permanent ones. More recently, some advocates have turned their attention to student housing, which they want to turn into safe spaces by segregating student living quarters. Who would have imagined that the original safe space motive -- to explore issues in an inclusive environment -- would so quickly give way to the impulse to quarantine oneself and create de facto cultural segregation?
Safe space activism stems primarily from the separatist impulses associated with the politics of identity, already rampant on campus. For some individuals, the attraction of a safe space is that it insulates them from not just hostility, but the views of people who are not like them. Students' frequent demand for protection from uncomfortable ideas on campus -- such as so-called trigger warnings -- is now paralleled by calls to be physically separated too. Groups contend that their well-being depends on living with their own kind.
...When everyone retreats to their separate corners, that subverts the foundation on which a tolerant and liberal university is constituted. Whereas historically the university freed its members from their cultural baggage to create a community of intellectual individuals, students in the contemporary era are regarded not as individuals in their own right but as the personification of a cultural group. The popularity of identity politics among insecure millennials threatens to fracture campus life to the point that undergraduates are inhabiting separate spaces and leading parallel lives.
An example of how free speech -- between disagreeing people -- works is in this video of Jordan Peterson talking to a woman on campus who is opposed to his views. Instead of shouting each other down -- as so many in the movement for separatism will do when they encounter people who aren't in lockstep with their thinking -- they engage with each other's speech and thinking.
It's by engaging on a human to human level like this -- not treating others as evil and only worthy of being shut up -- that we advance thinking.
However, I have to say, I think that part of the problem is that the thinking of those on the separatist side is not well-supported by values of fairness and by logic. In fact, they have a lot in common with religious fundamentalists, and looking at their demands this way is a helpful way to understand why they scream so loud and are so unwilling to accept that anyone even has a different point of view from theirs. That, they believe, is simply, well, evil and wrong.