Susan Shepler, an Associate Professor and PhD Program Director at American University, Washington, D.C. has refuted claims that she accepted a substantial bribe to have Sierra Leone’s President Julius Bio speak at the institution.

Bio, an alumnus of the school was a guest Speaker on Friday where he gave a public lecture titled “Building a Prosperous and Secured Future through Human Capital Development – the Sierra Leone Example.” After the lecture, Shepler moderated a Q&A session where the President gave a remark accusing the United States of pressuring him to interfere in his country’s June 24 election count.

“When the elections were at the height — of calling the results — this is when the problems started,” Bio said during the event.

The Election Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), he said, “had done all their calculations, collations, all the processes. I was now requested to stop them from calling the result by the United States. So I don’t know who is accusing who of interference.”

“They are an independent, semiautonomous body,” the president said of the ECSL. “I declined, and I said I have never called this institution, I am not going to call them now.”

The President’s statements have drawn attention from both local and international audiences, with some critics suggesting that American University should not have given him a platform to discuss the election controversies.

In response to these sentiments, Shepler took to social media, conveying that while she shares many of the concerns about Sierra Leone’s current state, it remains vital to foster public dialogue.

“Just had a call from a Sierra Leonean upset that we are giving President Bio a platform to speak. Though I agree with MANY of the caller’s concerns (democratic decay, deadly policing, etc.), I still think it’s important to host a public dialogue.” She wrote.

Furthermore, Shepler clarified that she did not receive any bribe to invite President Bio to the university. She also noted that the government provided “us nice propaganda booklets for our collections.”