On October 18, 2023, two nights before a scheduled performance of By the River Rivanna for a theatre class assignment, Santa Monica College administrators intervened to interview the students about the performance, allegedly based on reports they were uncomfortable with the subject matter. The next night, administrators had students privately vote on whether to proceed as scheduled, move back the performance by a week, or cancel it altogether. When the majority voted to continue, administrators conducted a second vote asking if the play should be invite-only. While a majority voted to proceed as invite-only, cast members felt it would be impossible to continue without the entire team, and thus opted to abandon the show. FIRE immediately wrote SMC on Oct. 20 asking them to allow the performance to go on if students so chose, and to cease unduly interfering with and violating student choices and faculty academic freedom. After SMC claimed in an Oct. 23 response that faculty and the student actors decided together to halt the production. FIRE responded on Nov. 1, urging administrations to confirm it will cease unduly influencing students and violating its faculty’s protected exercise of academic freedom to assign materials like By the River Rivanna, and asking it to allow the curtain go up on the performance, if the students were game.