The comment about the hakama being a "gift" is still grating on me, and I want to dispell that idea. How can it be a gift? It takes years (in most styles) of diligent practice to reach shodan, which in itself is just a beginning.
That does not mean that people shouldn't be treated equally as human beings, but in aikido, as in other martial arts, there is a distinct heirarchy. There is nothing wrong with this, and it has a lot of merit. Senior students are expected to be good role models and to help the juniors. They should respect the juniors for their potential and the junior should respect the senior for their years of practice. Within the dojo, we all know each others experience; it is at seminars that things can get confusing when a beginner wears a hakama. It is false advertising and can result in harm to the beginner (not everyone trains carefully and with sensitivity to their partners).
Anyway, the comment about the gift just seems like sour grapes to me!