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The April 26 'MHP' Syllabus

Unidentified Northwestern football players walk between their locker room and McGaw Hall, where voting is taking place on the student athlete union question...
Unidentified Northwestern football players walk between their locker room and McGaw Hall, where voting is taking place on the student athlete union question...

More than half of Michigan voters agreed to amend their state constitution in 2006 to officially ban public colleges and universities from considering race in the admissions process. This past week, the Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, upheld the ban decreeing that Michigan’s action did not violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law.

Join us on Saturday's Melissa Harris-Perry for a deep dive into Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s powerful dissent and what the court’s decision will mean for the future of affirmative action.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, the course of collegiate athletics and student labor rights may be about to change thanks to the 76 Northwestern University football players eligible to cast a secret ballot Friday on whether or not to form a union. The Chicago branch of the National Labor Relations Board ruled last month that the players are indeed university employees and should be afforded the rights and protections that come with that status. Though we may not know the result of Friday’s vote for months, the very fact that it is taking place is a major step for college athletes. Nation sports editor Dave Zirin will join us to discuss the implications of Friday’s vote for the NCAA, and whether Northwestern broke the law with its activities discouraging the union's formation.

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder made a historic change this week regarding clemency for drug offenders currently serving out their sentences in federal prisons. On Wednesday, Holder released a video statement announcing that federal offenders now have the chance to be released early from prison if they meet a specific set of criteria including having been in prison for at least 10 years and having a sentence that would be significantly shorter under current laws. This move marks a significant shift from the mandatory minimums and other harsh drug-related punishments enacted in 1986 under President Reagan. On Saturday, we will bring you the latest on the clemency debate and sentencing reform.

This summer will mark one year since the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the so called Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 which prohibited same-sex couples married under state law to receive federal benefits. On the same day, the court also declined to rule on Prop 8, effectively clearing the way for same sex marriage to move forward in California. On Saturday we will be joined by New York Times Investigative journalist Jo Becker to discuss her new book, Forcing the Spring, which chronicles the work of the marriage rights activists who worked to make the victory a reality.

Joining Becker in her television debut will be Ashley Lininger, the stepdaughter of the attorney who argued for Proposition 8--as well as Kris Perry and Sandy Steer, two of the plaintiffs in the case who spoke to the president live on msnbc just moments after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Be sure to read what we’ve linked above, and watch Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday at 10am ET on msnbc! Our host is off this weekend, but fear not: Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart is back to fill in! Also, don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #nerdland.