A few weeks ago a conversation surfaced regarding sexuality and sexual conduct in the dojo. During that discussion, several posters implicated the aikido community was involved in [sexual] misconduct at the dojo.
What, all of us?
This is part of the problem, that even extends to Hall's letter. There's a strange reluctance in the MA community to name names, no matter what is being talked about, whether it's money, internal power, misconduct, etc.
I had to spend time googling to find out who exactly was being discussed. Lloyd Irving, who was implicated in a rape decades ago, has two students at his dojo, Matthew Maldonado and Nicholas Schultz, who have been arrested and charged for raping a fellow student. What is everyone scared of?
2 years to shodan? While the rest of your questions seemed interesting to me, this one really confused me. I have been in Aikido for about 2 years now, and for a year of it, I trained with my Sensei twice a week, and drive an hour 3x a week to train with his instructor at a different dojo. I would say that my level of dedication ranks fairly high, and right now I travel about an hour and a half twice a week to train with my Sensei. I've also attended seminars as well as the week long summer camp we have every year. With all of that in mind, I am not even remotely good enough to be a shodan. This has nothing to do with my level of dedication, or my level of training. I have seen huge improvements in my technique and my ukemi, and I am not even remotely up to the level of the shodans I saw test last summer camp.
Some people are just better at it than others. It's pretty disheartening, sometimes, to see someone pick things up immediately that you struggle with, but there is always someone who either has trained harder or is more naturally talented, and sometimes both.